How Pittsburgh Crushed G20 Protests

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City officials claim their actions were intended to keep the public safe, yet the only thing law enforcement kept safe was the corporate center of downtown Pittsburgh.

[Democracy Watch]

At the recent G20 gathering, Pittsburgh demonstrators were subjected to suppression of their First Amendment rights.

They were outnumbered, outmaneuvered and outgunned. Pittsburgh Police used teargas, audio intimidation tactics and at times brutal force. Seeds of Peace and Everybody's Kitchen, organizations that provide food and water to demonstrators after marches, were targeted numerous times. The police confiscated the SOP bus, showed up in large numbers late at night while members were asleep, searched the SOP bus allegedly for weapons and managed to cost the non-profit organization thousands of dollars in fines for alleged traffic violations. 

Most of the members of SOP were not even demonstrators, but were in Pittsburgh to prepare and serve meals to the hungry.
In the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh, police prevented demonstrators from leaving the neighborhood. In fact, police purposely kept demonstrators in working class neighborhoods away throughout the entire summit.

As long as demonstrators were kept from interfering with the dignitaries meeting downtown, city leaders did not appear to care what happened in Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Frustrated in their efforts to get near the Convention Center's "Free Speech Zone," an empty lot in the Strip District, rented by the city for G20 protests, demonstrators somehow managed get away from police and target corporations and franchises located within local neighborhoods, which were not original targets. It's apparent city officials did not care if working class neighborhoods became targets of vandalism.

However, residents were able to quickly determine that they were not the targets of the demonstrators and that the only people releasing teargas in residential neighborhoods was the Pittsburgh Police. The demonstrators held harmless signs and the police carried deadly automatic weapons.

City officials claim their actions were intended to keep the public safe, yet the only thing law enforcement kept safe was the corporate center of downtown Pittsburgh.

The Merton Center for Peace and Justice was at first denied a permit to hold a peaceful march the final day of the G20 Summit. The permit request was eventually granted after a hearing before a judge. 

Working together, diverse organizations in Pittsburgh for the G20 Summit were able to agree that the People's March on Friday would remain a peaceful one. It was this agreement among organizations that led to the peaceful demonstration not the overwhelming presence of law enforcement.

Overall, the People's March was a success. Yet, it had to be frustrating for those organizations that had hoped to hold their own demonstrations to highlight specific issues that brought them to the G20 Summit, to be barred unless they obtained a permit from the city.

Dignitaries from around the world were treated to an idyllic view of a city that has successfully weathered economic upheaval and re-invented itself. However, what visitors did not see were the thousands of people who wished to have their voices heard.

Visitors did not see the groups advocating against the ongoing conflict in Darfur, the groups concerned about global warming or the members of organizations fighting to end hunger, AIDs, poverty and domestic aggression against women and children.
Nor did they see the people who marched for Health Care Reform, Gay Rights or Pittsburgh's homeless, disenfranchised and unemployed who marched despite attempts by city officials to frighten citizens into staying off the streets of downtown.

Despite overzealous efforts by city officials and law enforcement to limit First Amendment rights, people from all walks of life loudly chanted during permitted and non-permitted marches, “The People United Will Never Be Defeated". Demonstrators in Pittsburgh prevailed and stood up for the rights of all American citizens.


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