Friday, September 25, 2009

G20 Protest Recap

So the opportunity to attend the G20 protests here in Pittsburgh was too much for me to avoid, particularly because I didn't have to travel anywhere to take part. I attended both days of protest, the first concocted by the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project a group I suspect is one without any organic connections to Pittsburgh and its activist infrastructure. Its clear like most G20 hosting cities, Pittsburgh received a great deal of anarchist tourism, as we suddenly sprouted a wing of CrimeThinc and a group called Greater Pittsburgh Anarchist Coalition.

Anyway the first day I attended the "illegal march" beginning in my neighborhood (Lawrenceville), in a small park behind a middle school, that intended to head downtown and disrupt the arrival of various G20 dignitaries. Naturally, the police wanted to prevent this possibility at all costs. The city's idiot mayor fearing the worst (and instituting a city-wide campaign of fear-mongering) declared a state of emergency and deputized between 1,000-4,00 police officers to assist with arrests, and freeing up 1,000 beds in the city jail. But thanks to Pittsburgh's counter-intuitive topography and urban planning the large extent of protesters were contained within 2-3 hours without officially reaching the Strip District (the neighborhood between Larryville and downtown). Two friend attended the march with me, neither of which was interested in being arrested or brutalized by the police, and neither of which had ever attended a protest before let alone an illegal one, thus I had to shepherd my friends around safely. Here is some footage of the beginning of the march in Arsenal Park, which was apparently 1,000 strong:

Protesters clashed with police on several times in this march, in some cases attempting to build barricades against the police who responded with "sonic weaponry" and OC (apparently this is not tear gas). General disorganization, a lack of communication between parts of the march, and the lack of direction for the march's leadership produced some frustrating and ineffective results. Protesters were summarily corralled, gassed, beaten, and in some cases arrested. Community member response was clearly divided between African-Americans often offering food, support, bathrooms, and waving fists in the air whereas white male community respondents tended to see us as commies (which some of us were) and demanded that we "go get a job."

Apparently, simultaneous actions (and later that night) were occurring in Oakland (the university centered part of Pittsburgh) with much more arbitrary arrests, and police brutality in general. I missed most of this, but here is some video of police trapping University of Pittsburgh students in a stairwell and gassing them.

Here is another of a woman shoved twice by police officers and when she responds is promptly struck twice and arrested:

Also, police photo op with arrested student:

The news footage from our local stations revealed the self-contradicting and and low states of journalism and the anchors from various stations continued to frantically sell the city to uninterested G20 delegates over footage of police abuse.

The official march was as usual boring and easily contained by the rhetoric of free speech and the overall lack of media coverage despite the 10,000 mark, I believe, for march attendees. Highlights included a moment when protesters flicked off Fox News cameras chanting "Fuck Fox News" and the vegetarian tacos provided free of charge by Just Seeds.

Here is the Pitt Student's critique of the police response during the protests.

Overall I think the results of the protests are telling for the reasons Pittsburgh was chosen as the site of the G20 Summit: not because it is the model post-industrial city, but because its streets are difficult to know and navigate/provide ample opportunity of contain unrest, because the police force has few scruples about using unnecessary force to achieve their goals, and because this is not a major metropolis and thus lacks the necessary base for a large protest.

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