Wasteful Pentagon spending the focus of rallies across US
Pig costumes were in high demand Feb. 27, 2013, when protesters across the U.S. challenged the “pork” that pads the Pentagon budget. The National Day of Action on Pentagon Spending galvanized a broad coalition of groups and included demonstrations in over 30 cities, including several where the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has been working to raise public awareness about the spending priorities reflected in the federal budget.
In Chicago, a “Pentagon waste” pig graced Federal Plaza, adding flashes of pink against the cold and slush of an otherwise gray day.
“Our Pentagon waste pig had bacon attached to him with ‘CEO Salaries,’ ‘F-35,’ ‘Nuclear Weapons,’ and ‘Overseas Bases’ written on the slices, and we asked passersby to pull the ‘pork’ off of him and read about what the money could be spent on instead,” reports Debbie Southorn, who interns with AFSC’s peace-building program in Chicago.
“We gave away Dum Dums lollypops—because ‘sequestration is dumb and cutting the Pentagon is a no brainer’ and invited folks to be part of our street theater scene,” says Debbie.
Another pig, nicknamed “Porky,” was the main attraction in Indianapolis, where AFSC and Central Indiana Jobs with Justice co-sponsored a similar rally in Monument Circle.
About 15 community members, mostly veterans, took part, holding up banners showing the disproportionate percentage of the federal discretionary budget that is allocated to the military.
“We unrolled the banner for our local Fox News affiliate,” says AFSC’s Erin Polley, “and passed out fliers for about an hour, asking people to call Congress” about shifting federal spending away from the Pentagon.
In Des Moines, a foot of snow delayed the rally for a day, while in Philadelphia, activists handed over 15,000 petitions gathered from across the state to Senator Toomey. The petitions asked for Pentagon spending to be reined in while protecting vital services from being cut. AFSC’s 20 foot budget banner was also displayed. Meanwhile, in New England, small groups of dedicated community members held banners in the pouring rain in Worcester, Mass.; Northampton, Mass.; Boston; and Providence.
“The weather was cold, with lots of wind and rain,” says Sofia Wolman, an AFSC fellow working with Wage Peace. “But over 25 community, peace, and labor activists gathered at the bustling Park Street Station for over an hour.”
For the past year, Sofia and AFSC’s Paul Shannon have been working closely with the Budget for All Coalition. Through the Budget for All referendum passed on Nov. 6, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly said Congress should stop cuts to vital social programs, create jobs, tax high incomes, make large corporations pay taxes, bring the troops home, and redirect Pentagon spending to meet human needs.
The Budget for All Coalition used the “Pull the Pork” rally as an opportunity to send a letter signed by 37 Massachusetts state legislators, urging Congress to abide by the will of Massachusetts voters during the ongoing budget battles.
“The broad coalition that came together on this national day of action represents important momentum toward budget priorities that create true security,” says Mary Zerkel, co-coordinator of AFSC’s Wage Peace campaign. “No matter what happens on March 1 with the sequestration deadline, there is an increasingly vocal movement demanding that we fund education and healthcare instead of weapons and war.”
Learn more about what AFSC is doing this spring to urge lawmakers to invest in people, not the Pentagon.