Category Archives: G-20

Pittsburgh G20: THE PEOPLE’S MARCH

Grand Marshal – The Daily Show’s John Oliver:

Keeping it real:

Now who is this, causing trouble?

And finally, who would have expected this?

Pittsburgh G-20: Burmese, Ethiopians March Towards the Summit

Headed east on Liberty Avenue, from the Point:

Unlike most of us in a confusing, snarled Downtown, turns out they knew where they were going: a security perimeter near to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Here is a portion of the Ethiopian demonstration:

And here is a clip from that of the Burmese:

And here, Pennsylvania state troopers march toward them en mass, stay for a bit, then turn around and walk away:

Ravenstahl Makes Everything OK for G-20?? ** [MUCHLY UPDATED, SATURDAY EDITION]

The headline reads, Mayor to grant all G-20 protest permits, which would include the ever-symbolic Point State Park — only hitch is, protesters will not be able to camp overnight, and would have to disassemble all their infrastructure nightly. Meanwhile, proposed legislative restrictions on things like masks and PVC pipe would only be enforced if “used in commission of a crime”.

This sounds too good to be true somehow, but wow. [**-UPDATES: Maybe it is. See below]

A spokesperson for the Thomas Merton Center, which has been sort-of convening the organization of the protest groups’ efforts to lobby for permits, says so far this is news to them.

This from Vic Walczak of the ACLU, on the permits:

The devil is in the details. We haven’t received any actual permits and we’re already hearing they are cutting back on what was requested. Until we receive actual permits and see terms we are being cautious. That said, a qualified yes is certainly better than an unqualified no, which is what we received last week.

On the Mayor’s legislation, and whether a stated intent “not to enforce unless” matters:

Legislation defines crimes very broadly as illegal activity. We need to do our legal research to figure out whether the proposed bills are constitutional.


The bills also ban protesters from using “noxious substances” against police including animal or human waste, rotten eggs, acid, gasoline, gases and alcohol. (P-G, Timothy McNulty)

That much is good. Though I’m surprised that’s not illegal already.

He (the Mayor) said all five groups seeking protest permits around the Sept. 24 and 25 summit of international leaders will be given conditional approvals for events in Downtown, the South Side, North Side and the Strip District. (ibid)

“Conditional” being the very operative word. It is widely suspected that the Secret Service will force City officials to revoke or dramatically curtail these permits. It is also somewhat widely suspected that City officials already know this, and are granting conditional permits in order to look like the “good cops” in the situation for a little while.

Two ordinances prohibit masks for the purpose of aiding in the commission of unlawful activity including gas masks, which can be worn unless they’re used to evade police and items that protesters could use to chain themselves to buildings, evade police or inhibit movement of emergency-response equipment. (Trib, Adam Brandolph)

That seems like a distinction without a difference — “unless they’re used to evade police”.

Imagine: Citizens go somewhere (or do something) that police in the field deem impermissible. Police order citizens to disperse — which in itself triggers the “unlawful activity” clause for the remainder; at least some citizens do not immediately disperse, and many who try to do so have nowhere immediately available to go. Police gas citizens to protect selves before wading in. Citizens don gas masks in self-defense. Gas causes confusion and fog of war. Police target mask-clad citizens and treat them with a heightened presumption of criminal intent. Citizens see mates they view as innocent getting “abused” and decide to … you get the idea.

Without prejudice to any particular aspect of this proposed legislation, I know that protest groups are formally calling upon the City and other authorities to adopt “Use of Force guidelines” for policing units to abide by. This seems reasonable.

If citizens are being handed a special set of game rules outside of what is ordinary in America, they should also know what to expect in this new situation out of their police. Everyone should know as much as possible. This isn’t a war.

Pittsburgh G-20 Buyer’s Remorse?

Go read this now, then rejoin us:

IMO, this [hosting of the G-20] is a sham. Pittsburgh, like all marks, has been duped because in our dark place we want to be the showcase of the world, and we’ve been sold our own dream. If somebody dies (police, protester, bystander) what accomplishment will justify their death? (WWVB)

That would have sounded pitiably pessimistic only a few weeks ago, but as the closures, restrictions and above all else the great security Catch-22 has become more apparent, ideas like this are starting to crop up more frequently.

On the right:

And certainly on the left: listen to Al Hart, United Electrical workers union, in a post at the Slag Heap. During the press conference, Hart went on at greater length about how the world’s “rich” intend to take, take, take from Pittsburgh during this summit– and from Pittsburghers themselves, considering lost wages and productivity — and offer nothing in return.

I’ve also gotten wind that some City Council members — I actually do not know which ones, so it may not be the ones you would immediately imagine — are resentful of how Mayor Ravenstahl and County Executive Onorato kept the negotiations a big secret and then made a big surprise out of it, instead of hashing it out with their coequal partners in government. Now they own it exclusively, for good or for ill.

Remember back in May:

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he knows the G-20 poses some security problems likely to be felt by Pittsburghers.

“Of course, it will be an inconvenience in some ways,” he said. “But it’s an opportunity for the residents of this city to experience something they’ve never seen before.” (P-G, Roddey & Sherman)


Mr. Ravenstahl said the event will result in “traffic, chaos and experience,” but he and Mr. Huss said there should be no reason for residents to avoid the Downtown area during the summit. (P-G, Ed Blazina)

I still instinctively agree with those sentiments, mostly, and even find them admirable, as you can read in my comment under a prior WWVB post. “Chaos and experience” are things to be embraced in my view, and opportunities are there to be seized.

At the same time, having now read Vannevar’s newest post, I have to wonder if my — our — assumptions were justified.

THE G-20 PROTESTS: Scrambling for Space

As you know, last night I checked out the organizational meeting among various G-20 dissidents at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church.

It was held in a small, hot room packed with 60 or so activists and another 20 or so media persons. A vote was held at the top of the meeting as to whether or not to allow the media to remain the whole time. After some discussion, the press was granted full access by a 3-1 margin. Prior to the vote, I was informed that as a blogger I’d be fine either way.

This probably should go without saying, but let me make clear: I am not a “G-20 opponent”, and I’m not an opponent of capitalism. I’m glad the G-20 is coming to Pittsburgh, and I expect a lot to get accomplished here.

I am however a supporter of the Bill of Rights and of a broad and muscular interpretation of civil liberties. I plan on covering the G-20 which for me largely will mean reporting on and commenting upon the demonstrations surrounding it — and hopefully generating some dialogue between those folks and summit participants. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that if I see or learn of something most foul and atrocious, I’ll whip off my editorial hat and grab a sign — but I’m not expecting that.


At least four T-shirts worn by the activists bore peace signs. One had on a shirt from Code Pink. Another read, Arrest Bush. One gentleman wore the somewhat famous image of President Obama bearing the caption, Everybody chill … out, I got this! — although that same person went on to say that we must pressure Obama to lighten up on the G-20 militarization and satisfy the left wing which got him elected.

The back of another shirt bore a quote from Karl Marx: The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.

It was clarified to me by a couple sources that these were hippees. Indeed, though a few were strident orators, they seemed to me like the gentlest bunch of protesters a city could ever hope for. There was no talk of “stopping” or “disrupting” the G-20 Summit, there was only talk of a “non-hostile, family-friendly environment”. They seek legal permits for protesting because “we care about our city and the integrity of our environment”

Not all protesters of the G-20 will be hippees. Supposedly there will also be anarchists. Their numbers, intentions, and relative seriousness is less well known. There is a feeling among the hippees that creating space and an infrastructure for civil protest — in the Golden Triangle, near the Convention Center — will lessen the volatility of the whole situation.


Several groups claimed that their own applications for permits were already formally rejected. Many more said they’ve received no response. One attorney in the room said the City is playing a “cat and mouse” game with the protesters, stringing them along and seeing how little they can offer.

In general, the sentiment in the room was that the City and Mayor Ravenstahl in particular would like to issue more permits and be more accommodating to protesters, but the mean old federal government and Secret Service isn’t allowing them to do so. One person suggested that maybe this isn’t the case — maybe the City administration has more to do with with crafting the policy which is aggravating them — but that person was harrumphed down.

One woman testified that Mayor Ravenstahl told her personally that he intends to issue permits for “two sites within shouting distance of the convention center,” though she noted with skepticism that the Allegheny River technically qualifies by that standard.

There was a misconception at first by many that City Council has something to do with anything regarding permit and public safety policies, although this notion was mostly corrected. One tactic the demonstrators said they definitely intend to employ is asking the Council to adopt a resolution that “supports [their] right to free speech in a place where we will be seen and heard,” and that “holds law enforcement accountable to a use of force policy to ensure that demonstrators are not abused.” A petition was passed around to set up a formal Public Hearing on the issue.

State Sen. Jim Ferlo received numerous plaudits from the assembled, including for an address to Netroots Nation imploring the bloggers to return to Pittsburgh for the G-20, when it will be under “martial law”.

The major issues seemed to be the denial of access to Point State Park, along with the fact that said park was to become a security staging area, or what many called a “military encampment”. A few noted that the Point was long ago the site of a fort which was utilized for the purposes of stripping native inhabitants of their land and rights. If there was any noteworthy consensus reached among the dissidents, it seemed to galvanize around Point State Park and the fact that, as a public park, it should be reserved for the public.

“Unacceptable!”, declared one young man, which drew cheers.

“If nothing else, I think we should fight for Point State Park just to keep the military out of it,” said another.

“Poets on the Loose” was the first group to declare that they will be operating without a permit near the entrance of Point State Park. From there on speakers with more frequency talked about the need to protest where they feel they have a right to protest, regardless of permits, or march where and when they feel they have a right to march — filling the prisons if necessary. “Power yields nothing without a demand,” they said several times.

One fellow in the back pointed out that the City, to his experience, historically has never issued permits for Point State Park — so perhaps the demonstrators shouldn’t feel personally slighted. “I think you’ve got to be realistic,” he said.

“NOOOOO!”, the room literally shouted at him.

Nonetheless, a few alternatives to Point State Park were mentioned and written on the chalk board: the North Shore, South Side Riverfront Park, a march from Freedom Corner to the Convention Center (or as close as they can get).

My favorite suggestion came from a soft-spoken woman in the front:

“Maybe I’m an idealist,” she said, “but I feel like we should be given a conference room right in the David Lawrence convention hall.”

FERLO: Free-Speech Zones “Morally, Politically and Constitutionally Un-Acceptable”

I’m more than a little late covering this kerfuffle, but it’s a neat kerfuffle. On Friday July 24, the Tribune-Review ran an article which led like so:

Sen. Jim Ferlo wants the city’s permission to turn Point State Park into a free-speech zone for activists the day before the Group of 20 economic summit begins Downtown. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

Later that day, Sen. Ferlo released to the media a copy of the permit request he had sent to Chief Harper and Director Huss, along with a letter directly to Mr. Boren:

Respectfully, I have been in public life for over 25 years and while I have taken exception to various editorials and news reporting I have never written and asked for a correction or retraction. The headline and your own reporting of an interview with me following the release of my letter to local public safety officials amounts to the pusillanimous neglect of accuracy and truth! I never , either in written word or our phone conversation, used the phrase or suggested a so-called “free-speech zone”. A so-called “free speech zone” violates our right of free speech and assembly—anywhere! It would amount to me telling you and the Trib and Mr. Scaife that you could only sell or pass out the Trib at certain public intersections….

And more. That’s about as definitive a denial and rebuke as it gets. However, I couldn’t help but remember a similar article published by the Post-Gazette on June 5:

But, Mr. Ferlo added, he also hopes that protesters’ voices will be heard during the event, preferably in a peaceful “free speech” venue near the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, where leaders will be meeting.

Yarone Zober on Development and CBA’s

Lots to discuss, will have to wait but feel free to start without me. Might need to plug in some speakers and crank it in the meanwhile.