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.”

33 thoughts on “THE G-20 PROTESTS: Scrambling for Space

  1. MH

    “Prior to the vote, I was informed that as a blogger I'd be fine either way.”

    That's really the kind of thing you could take either way.

  2. n'at

    It would be rather awkward for the city to issue a permit for vessels floating within federal waters. the hippies should confer with the coast guard marine safety unit in pittsburgh to determine if the guard will limit access to the area.

    or, you can procrastinate until the day of and confer with the cpt. on channel 13 or 16 on a shortwave…

  3. Anonymous

    If the City really wanted to screw with them, they would issue permits for protests in places that the Secret Service would overrule.

    “We're here to protest”
    “You're not allowed to be here”
    “We have a Permit!”
    “Go away or we will tear gas you, beat you, and arrest you – not necissary in that order”

  4. MH

    Matt H,

    Protest decisions are supposed to be content neutral. Being pointless shouldn't interfer with anybody's rights.

  5. monk

    Matt H….

    Most would categorize me as an 'old hippy.'

    I find myself in agreement with you…most of the protester are a joke and give those with a 'Defined Cause' a bad name.

    Look at the picture Bram used in this post…A women in jeans holding a sign that sez “Women are not just Decorations”. Next to her is a women who is very much a decoration…

    …together they resemble a peculiar set of book ends.

    Young college folks… protesting the same financial institutions and governments that put them through college…go figure.

    The old hippies used to protest the Nam war from the comfort of universities…while avoiding the draft through college deferments.

    They called young blacks and white trash stupid for serving their Country in the armed forces.

    And, they were right in as much as the rich and privileged protesters should not been given exemptions based on gender and financial status…

    I believe 40 years later the young still lack understanding not taught in school…

    I agree ‘Women SHOULD be more than Decorations’…they should be reqiured to registrer for the draft and the elimination of college deferments for the rich kids, should be law.

    Until that happens, women and the rich benefactors are very much merely decorations…

  6. monk

    Yes PLEASE, Lady Elaine…exercise your First Ammendment Right.

    After all it is a birthright for women, for men one must register with Selective Sevice in order to complete FAFSA. I have filled out Federal Application(s)for Federal Student Aid…for daughters(3).

    Think that they should have been required to sign up for Draft as well…I believe in gender blindness.

    Redd up Team? Matt H. post…

    Thinking you are merely a “DECORATION”. M'Lady…

  7. monk

    MH you said “Even the most deluded hippie never came-up with an idea as pointless as Ravenstahl for Mayor.”

    It was the 'deluded hippies' that backed Dowd…and continue to undermine the Mayor, because you and those of your ilk like being part of the 37% that is the minority. You seek companionship were there is no substance…

    …keep trying.

    If you were given a million dollars you would complain that it was all in one dollar bills…

    It is you who are delusional…

    Happiness is a choice…as is the alternative.

  8. n'at

    you forgot the rest of the line, monk: happiness is a choice that requires effort at times.

    I'll let you two fight over which camp deserves those words.


  9. MH

    Monk, your mental path is wandering a bit today.

    Anyway, I'm not part of that 37%. I'm in the even smaller (but much less hippie-prone) population of Pittsburgh Republicans.

  10. monk

    87% of men… when questioned about who they would like to spent time with on Island if they were Gilligan…Mary Anne or Ginger;

    …said Mary Anne.

    If guy are you saying you'd go with Ginger? If so…why?


  11. MH

    How long would I be stuck on the island? And what does this have to do with Dowd, Ravenstahl, protests or hippies?

  12. n'at

    the way i understand monk's analogy is that steelerstahl is gilligan, who chooses mary anne – no surprises; what you see is what you get; settle for the introvert.

    Whereas, if we were allowed the professor, then I believe we would set our sights on ginger: the extroverted dreamer that is willing to take risks. The professor being Dr. Dowd and Ginger being the good doctor's M.O., of course.

    I'm not trying to beat up on you, monk. it's just one of those days… I'll be the first to respond to the boatswain's call, when it's your time 🙂

  13. monk

    For life.

    Thinking it will take lifetime to explain what all this has to do with Dowd, Mayor, protests or hippies…

    …always important to keep good company.

    Let's open this up…

    Guys, Mary Anne or Ginger and why?

    This question was asked in my shop, skilled tradesmen…

    Near as I can tell not considering Mary Annes apparent physical attributes…we like gals that make us feel special…and, home-baked coconut cream pies.

    For the women, which guy would you like to spend time on island with…

    I'm betting Mr. Howell III…

    ….Tee, hee…

  14. monk

    For the record Thruston Howell III refered to wife as Lovey…

    Republicans, as surely they were, never wandered.

    …it is the poor that wander.

  15. monk

    Women’s suffrage…paid for with blood of males…


    “The National Organization for Women is the largest organization of feminist activists in the United States. NOW has more than 500,000 contributing members and more than 500 local and campus affiliates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Since our founding in 1966, NOW's goal has been “to take action” to bring about equality for all women. Both the actions NOW takes and its position on the issues are principled, uncompromising and often ahead of their time. NOW is a leader, not a follower, of public opinion.”


    Think Now Organization Members need to register for the Draft…

    Equality is Guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and Constitution…

    NOW and again, I agree completly..

    Women need to have heads shaved…No longer should they be merely DECORATIONS!

    Dying in foxholes is the ultimate in gender equality…

    Don't give me excuses you need to raise kids…abort them in the name of the cause, not your pocketbook….

    After all rights demand sacrifices by 'All'.

    I embrace you sister, got your back should we meet in foxhole…

    THIS is how one protests…

  16. monk

    I agree…Bram.

    Sometimes a point needs time to sharpen…

    Indulgence profoundly appreciated.


    without spell cxheck!

  17. monk

    BRAM: I know this is last thing you want to read given my many comments…

    I have email asking what the purpose of my remarks on your blog…are?

    It's important…given the times and gender bias.

    “If women are exempt from registering with selective service to attain Federal Student Aid…men should not have to sacrifice life for financial gain and knowledge…that is inherent with continuing education offered to the priveledged”

    My point exactly…

    It will not offend me if this was not posted…

    Watching NCIS, Goth Chick is one helluva decoration…

  18. deegazette

    I turned 18 in the bicentennial year. You can't help but be patriotic when that happens. I registered to vote on my 18th birthday by going into the basement of the city-county building. What…a…dump! The big room looked like a brown paper grocery bag that had been reused way too many times. If given the chance I would have registered with selective service and I wondered why I did not have to. Three brothers made it home safely from the service by 1973. Thought it was a duty for all. Worry when only Monk makes sense to me.

  19. C. Briem

    Monk is more delphic than ususal, but some things really are too important to be confused:

    the elimination of college deferments for the rich kids, should be law.

    and so it is. There is no current deferment of the requirement to register in the selective service system based on educational enrollment. That is a battle from decades ago.

    Also, lest anyone think women are not fighting for their country, see the recent NYT article on the role of women in the armed forces these days: “GI Jane Breaks the Combat Barrier“.

    I would like to amplify that with more personal observations, but it would be inappropriate. There are battles still to be fought, but arguing as if it was 1968 is not very helpful.

    How this thread has gone from Bram's comments, to the draft, women in the military, the Mayor, Redd Up, Dowd's campaign and to Gilligan's Island is really amazing. To continue the military meme, I suspect some of it is intended as chaff.

  20. MH

    Just to be even more clear, they (Nixon) ended the college deferment (mostly) back when they were drafting for Vietnam and not just registering for the draft. Knowing Nixon, it probably had more to do with slapping hippies than fairness.

  21. Bram Reichbaum

    I don't think so, Anon 10:36. That's an offer for 1/2 of Point State Park for ONE DAY, a day PRIOR to the summit itself. I was just at a demonstrator's press conference, and that offer was characterized as being perhaps for only “two hours”.

    The gap between what people feel like they deserve and what it looks like they're getting is pretty considerable. Witold J. Walczak of the ACLU was quite adamant on the point that the Courts have ruled over the last decade that sidewalks and parks are meant for people, to use how they see fit, regardless of the threat of something bad maybe happening.

  22. Anonymous

    In Israel all children do time in the military. Two years mandatory, longer if they want to be an officer. For their time they earn education money and benefits.

    Not a bad program, various levels of work they perform. Got to witness it for myself.

  23. Maria


    Aww geez! You outed us women folk.

    We had this very clever plan over 200 years to get us out of the draft — we made sure that we weren't full citizens for the first 144 years of the country's existence — and of course that was, like, so totally within our power to ensure.

    I mean, sure, we couldn't vote or hold office. We couldn't really sign contracts if we were married unless we had hubby's permission. It was legal to pay us less for doing the exact same work as a man. There were laws that said our husbands could legally beat us, but they were kind laws made by kind men that said the stick could not be thicker than his thumb. And, if we were the defendant in a trial, we were pretty much guaranteed that a “jury of our peers” would not include any peer who happened to be woman, but what of it? It was all part of our deep, dark plot to not be called up by a draft.

    Even more clever, we used our power of decoration to persuade the men folk who decided who gets drafted to not draft us even after we were emancipated — so that's totally on us too.

    It's just too bad that those silly feminist types (who everyone knows are just PO'd that they aren't really decoration-worthy — you know, not Ginger or Mary Ann) had to blow it all for us by demanding silly basic human rights.

    So, Monk, you got it all right. [Well, except for that abortion thingy. We don't have them because of our “pocketbook” (unless of course the pocketbook happens to be silver and we think it would look cute matching the stirrups); it's more loosey goosey. Like the old commercial: sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't. Sometimes we're just in the mood for an abortion and sometimes we aren't. Mostly it just depends on how close the clinic is to our favorite nail salon. Got's to keep up the decoration!]


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