So the G-20 starts tomorrow and some of the folks in Pittsburgh are already getting hot and bothered. I mean both some of the anti-G20 protesters and some of the law enforcement agencies. If half of what the City Paper reported on yesterday, about the police harassing protesters who were just buying lunch(!), it bodes badly for the next few days.
Law enforcement certainly has the right to keep the delegates to the G-20 reasonably safe. Blocking off the area around the Convention Center makes sense, and, we know, we’re going to have rolling roadblocks in from the airport area. Just stay off the Parkway West and avoid driving into town over the next couple of days.
Protesters have the right for peaceable assembly. So far, word is there’s no real problem. Most protesters have quickly made their points and gotten out of the way.
I was in Oakland yesterday, and saw many more police than usual. Now, part of that might have had more to do with Bill Gates making an address up at CMU than “showing presence.” But there were all kinds of peaceful protests going on in Oakland, mostly small, but still visible. For the most part, law enforcement just let people be.
I’ve been to about a dozen protests in Washington over the years and a few here in Pittsburgh. I was also at the Inauguration in January, and saw an amazing show of law enforcement. Well over 1,000,000 people came into Washington, and the vast majority were there to celebrate Obama’s inauguration. The 300-500 counter-demonstrators were certainly there, they tried to be loud, and they had their little corner to protest in. Law enforcement pretty much left them alone, so long as they stayed in their designated area. Only a couple of people were arrested that day, of over 1,000,000 people who went to Washington. Damage to the city was minor, and mostly to the grass on the Mall.
It is usually a good thing for people in positions of power to get together to talk directly. Yes, I hope they do talk about the Darfur and poverty and climate change and environmental issues and establishing stronger laws over the banking and investment industries. Just let them talk.
Everyone – residents, protesters, law enforcement, just need to take a deep breath before doing anything over-the-top per the next few days. The eyes of the world are watching. We can try to be reasonable adults or reactionary children. If we are truly trying to reinvent Pittsburgh for a new generation, then showing a rational approach to the G-20 is the best thing to do.