An Overview of Protests Expected in Pittsburgh for G-20

By Prine, Carl | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 2, 2009 | Go to article overview

An Overview of Protests Expected in Pittsburgh for G-20


Prine, Carl, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The architects of the Group of 20 protests insist the expected deluge of thousands of activists will be the city's largest gathering for permitted protests and unlawful civil disobedience in a generation.

While demonstrations by Tibetan monks, American militiamen and disenchanted conservatives could flare throughout a week of protesting, most participants streaming to Pittsburgh come from six broad movements: environmentalists; trade unions; an array of socialist organizations; faith-based groups; antiwar camps; and a jumble of anarchist and other anti-authoritarian blocs that have scheduled their own forms of dissent without seeking permits from the city.

Although the groups say they're coming, turnout depends on a number of issues unrelated to their anger over G-20 policies. Organizers say a lack of formal permits for rallying and camping in city parks might cut the ranks of demonstrators who are unsure about where they would sleep in Pittsburgh or potential encounters with law enforcement when they take to the streets.

"Based on the fact that they've been denying permits and there's been all this violence baiting going on, they've been sowing the myth of the violent protester," said Pete Shell, director of the antiwar committee of Garfield's Thomas Merton Center. "The only conclusion you can come to is that they don't want anyone to protest the G-20."

Shell said the majority of those arriving to demonstrate will be loud, but peaceful. The Thomas Merton Center is trying to ensure that by training special rally guides to police their own. Shell predicts an orderly "People's March" that likely will draw the largest crowds on final day of the summit.

Recent Muhlenberg College grad Alex Lotorto wants to ensure that every event draws students from universities and high schools. An organizer for Students for a Democratic Society -- the radical student movement resurrected in 2006 -- Lotorto began crafting the "Out of the desks! Into the streets!" campaign in early August.

SDS wants protesters arriving in Pittsburgh to focus on sweatshop labor, declining public money for colleges, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and, closer to home, Carnegie Mellon's robotics work for the defense industry and vivisection labs in the region that do live testing on animals.

Unlike many mainstream protest groups, he advocates participation by students in events that aren't granted government permits. Like these organizations, however, Lotorto swears to demonstrate without resorting to violence. One form of protest he's working to bring to town is joining other bands of young people to carol door-to-door -- singing radical, edgy songs.

"Speaking only for myself, I don't believe that free speech should be permitted," said Lotorto, who works as a canvasser for progressive causes. "Once that happens, it means that it's no longer free. The First Amendment allows us to be angry."

Other protests anticipated:

Act Now to Stop War & End Racism Coalition: International ANSWER is a mostly Marxist bloc of groups dedicated to supporting North Korea and fighting U.S. influence in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. ANSWER coordinated many of the nation's major antiwar demonstrations since 2001.

American Resistance Movement: Militias such as the American Resistance Movement released videos and wrote manifestos decrying the G-20. An ARM leader called for widespread civil disobedience in Pittsburgh, but he and other leaders haven't guaranteed they and their supporters will show up.

Amnesty International: This group will focus on political prisoners worldwide. They'll be joined by students concerned about Sudan's treatment of Darfur citizens, China's occupation of Tibet and Israel's policies toward Gaza and the West Bank.

Asian monks and spiritualists: Buddhist monks from Tibet and Burma are expected to protest anti-democratic policies in their homelands. …

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