Leaders of the 20 richest countries of the world (G-20) met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 24-25, turning that city into a virtual police state. Thousands of police along with 2,000 combat-ready National Guards were on hand.
This G-20 summit was to focus on the global economic crisis and to develop climate policy in preparation for the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen this December. Yet any progress was largely eclipsed by Obama’s announcement about uranium enrichment facilities in Iran.
Police repression was intense, especially against the 3 Rivers Climate Convergence (3RCC) whose educational tents and materials were confiscated. 3RCC sought to have a camp at the G-20 meetings, but were denied permits to any of the city’s parks. Both 3RCC and Seeds of Peace, which came to provide free food for activists, were harassed during the weeks leading up to the summit.
The G-20 leaders were met by thousands of activists and organizations, including Iraq Veterans Against the War, trade unionists, social and climate justice activists, concerned citizens, peace groups, and a large contingent of young anarchists.
Week-long activities, including a Peoples Summit and tribunal, culminated on September 25 with thousands of protesters taking to the streets in a permitted "People’s March to the G-20" as they wrapped up their meetings. The march stopped three times to listen to speeches and music while police and National Guard lined the sidewalks. There were no arrests in one of the largest anti-globalization, pro-environment, and worker marches since Miami, Florida in 2003, when trade ministers met regarding the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
An unpermitted march on September 24, however, was met by a huge contingent of police who fired pepper gas into crowds and shot people with rubber bullets and bean bags. Confrontations continued into the night. Police forces also entered the University of Pittsburgh late that evening, firing teargas and arresting students and bystanders. The following evening, after the main march, police surrounded a group who had gathered for a rally and most were arrested including journalists and medics.
By the end of the protests over 170 people had been arrested, including Iraq War veterans, medics, and others, including passersby and students.
Police tactics included snatching people in marches and the use of Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs). LRADs are ear piercing sirens that can cause permanent damage to hearing and are designed to disorient people. This was the largest militarization in Pittsburgh since the Homestead Strike in 1892, which culminated in a battle between workers and private security agents—one of the most notorious labor disputes in U.S. history.
Orin Langelle is co-director/strategist of the Global Justice Ecology Project.