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Sep. 22 2009 - 11:15 am | 12 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

First On Imminent G20 Agenda: Clear Jail For Protesters

The hype surrounding this year’s G20 Summit in Pittsburgh is getting tense. The city is basically closing down on Wednesday as a security measure, and police are proving themselves increasingly befuddled about what to do with the influx of information they’re receiving.

They’ll need to focus. And soon. G20 week has already begun and new police-fueled fiascoes seem to emerge by the hour. Last night, a group of extremely peaceful protesters — who have set up camp on a bus to prepare food for visiting activists — were cited while looking for a place to park:

The bus, belonging to the Seeds of Peace Collective, had moved to a street off Larimer Avenue about 6:30 p.m., after city officials forced the group from a Lawrenceville location. Driver Randall Mark said he had parked the bus momentarily when officers told him to turn off the engine and began examining it from every angle.  The process drew a crowd of officers and onlookers and took more than two hours to complete; police eventually passed water bottles to Mr. Mark — who was told he couldn’t drive the bus — and others to keep them hydrated.

The debacle was observed and noted by local ACLU operatives who filed a federal lawsuit yesterday citing examples of city officers abusing power.

This kind of police mistake (and let’s be clear: it’s a mistake) is not surprising. The city has been prepping for Armageddon since the two-day international economic summit was announced. For months, the county has been talking of freeing space in Allegheny County Jail to make room for unruly protesters and other eyesores (like the homeless). Considering the fearful buildup, who would think law enforcement would be thoughtful about their G20 arrest procedures?

Overall, the mood here is hesitant: somewhere between excitement (Pittsburgh is finally being noticed as something other than a haven for football fans and unemployed steelworkers) and paranoia (this site is nothing; I was covering a council meeting last week in a borough almost 30 miles outside the city of Pittsburgh and a completely serious topic of discussion was “whether or not to open the bomb shelters during G20.” I didn’t even know anyone still had bomb shelters).

We’ll see where things go. This week will be interesting. Keep briefed here for updates as the G20 beast comes alive.


3 Total Comments
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  1. collapse expand

    Oh boy. They are going to open the bomb shelters. Wait, what?!?

  2. collapse expand

    I see this as the same kind of two-sided dilemma that David Sirota notes in his most recent book, The Uprising.

    On the one hand, demonstrators really don’t get any press whatsoever as long as they stay orderly and peaceful. So there’s incentive to rile people up and cause some noise.

    On the other hand, causing that noise often gets them press, but gets them also written off as loonies (something Obama basically did in his commentary on them).

    So it’s really a rough spot for them to be in.

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