Black Clad Agitators Do Some Damage and It Is NOT Who You Think
If you have been just a casual observer of what has been happening in Pittsburgh since the G20 came to town, you probably are under the impression that the police did a fine job of protecting the citizens from massive waves of black clad, poo-flinging maniacs called anarchists. After all, that is what the local news and the mainstream media have been telling you. Understanding the G20 and all the parties involved can be confusing. The media likes to simplify by saying “G20 protestors” as if all of the people in town to demonstrate were here because they don’t like the G20. In reality, there were hundreds of diverse causes represented – all here to try to get a little piece of the world stage. Tibetans, Ethiopians, Socialists, Libertarians, Organized Labor, Iraq War Vets, Pro Lifers, Tea Partiers, people against the bank bailout, and of course, Anarchists. My point here is that the doom and chaos news networks are all about ratings, so they will mostly show the masked people in black who are more likely to do something wacky on camera.
But the reality on the streets of Pittsburgh was quite different. Early on Thursday, there were a few peaceful protests around town and the only scary people in black were the police. That did change by the late afternoon, when an “unauthorized protest” occurred in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. This is where most of the anarchists were. The people involved in that rally had planned on making their way downtown but were scattered by police. It is hard to get the story straight, but around the time the rally returned into a march, the police showed up and dispersed the crowd. It is even more difficult to say who shot/threw what at whom first, but this is when the violence started. General consensus seems to be that nothing was broken until the smoke grenades and tear gas started flying. And don’t forget the LRAD “sound cannon” – a crowd control device that emits a terrible noise and if used to its fullest capabilities, can really hurt people. There have been complaints of hearing loss and seizures, but we’ll probably have to wait a long time to find out for sure about that. This was first used in a densely populated residential area. Which scary people in black did that? The ones with the bandanas or the ones with the armor and face masks? If the idea was to protect the community, why use a weapon that indiscriminately affects anyone within range?
Which scary people in black? The ones with the bandanas or the ones with the armor and face masks?
At this point, I would even say that “violence” is too strong of a word. Two dumpsters were rolled down the street toward police, and there was a fair amount of property damage to local businesses. Broken windows and overturned garbage cans, mostly. Pittsburgh probably saw more destruction after any of our Super Bowl victories. The city has even claimed they apprehended the one person responsible for the broken windows and other vandalism. One person? Great. So the streets are safe at this point, correct? Well, no.
The police played Whack-a-Mole with the now scattered protestors, dispersing them when they popped up, and the whole mess moved into Oakland, home of Pitt University. Protestors regrouped there and were joined by Pitt students and others in a non-violent demonstration that night. The police declared this an unlawful assembly and broke out the gas, rubber bullets, bean bag guns, and the LRAD again. In addition to dispersing and arresting evil protesters, they also bagged a few students. Some police were so thrilled with themselves that they got together for a group photo with their catch of the day, Abu Ghraib style. There are plenty of videos on YouTube and iReport documenting this and I have a collection of those and my own videos here.
Things eventually calmed down and the city had a fresh start on friday with the Peoples March organized by the Thomas Merton Center. This march was peaceful, even before it met up with a few thousand police downtown. The only incident I saw or heard of, was one kid who tried to duck under some caution tape to throw away a Dr. Pepper can. A cop promptly jabbed him in the gut with a baton. Damn hippies and their anti-littering!
By Friday night, the actual G20 Meeting was over, so we can all go back to normal, right? Nope. Pitt students, various flavors of protestors and other people who were angry about Thursday nights police actions were back in Oakland for another peaceful demonstration. And so were the violent guys who dress in black. This time, they weren’t just gassing and nabbing protestors, but students and the biggest threat to peace in our fair city and civilization – journalists and people with cameras. There are several reports of journalists from Indypgh.org (YouTube video of the interview here) and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and others being arrested, having their cameras confiscated or broken by police, arrested or all of the above.
Recently a video has surface showing three undercover police posing as protestors. I have to wonder what kind of damage they did trying to incite violence while pretending to be the “bad guys”.
I could go on much longer about specific incidents but please consider this:
Anarchists broke some windows, flipped some trash cans, raced dumpsters, yelled a lot and “failed to disperse” when told they were not allowed to be where they were.
Police intimidated, harassed, gassed, beat, shot, deafened, unlawfully detained and arrested law abiding citizens, damaged property, stole property, terrorized innocent people, publicly humiliated some people, disregarded the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, arrested credentialed journalists, cost the city several million dollars, and made Pittsburgh the only place outside Russia where sonic weapons were used on a civilian population.
As for me, on Thursday around lunch time, I was ready to write a nice blog entry praising the professionalism of all the police I had encountered. They were courteous, polite, completely by the book and often even friendly. And here I am now, wondering if everyone is OK with police in the United States doing exactly the kinds of things we use to justify invasions and sanctions against other countries.