Looking forward to G-20 protests
July 29, 2009
The G-20 economic summit will arrive in Pittsburgh in less than two months. Local, national, and global groups plan dozens of demonstrations on various issues. City, county, and other local police forces are training and preparing for massive arrests.
Unfortunately, violence often accompanies G-20 events. Protesters, passionate about their causes, sometimes try too hard to be heard. Police are often too eager to squelch them. Given the history of G-20 protests, people are justifiably nervous about what will happen here. As much as I sincerely believe in the right to protest and in the power of protest, I don’t want to see any violence or property damage.
The July 20 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette included an editorial, Peace and protest: Could an official gesture improve the G-20 summit? The PG offers two proposals. First, it suggests that protest organizations’ position papers be included in the information packages distributed to summit delegates. The second suggestion is a meeting at which interested protest leaders and summit delegates can discuss the issues at hand. Once the groups know that their messages have been delivered, the demonstrations may be less forceful. It’s a great idea. I hope the Pittsburgh G-20 Partnership follows through.
While anarchists usually attract the most media attention at world summit events, dozens of other organizations also plan demonstrations. The Allegheny County Labor Council will protest world sweatshops. People United for Single Payer Health Care will rally for international and universal health care. The Thomas Merton Center will march for international peace and justice. Other groups planning actions include Amnesty International, the United Steelworkers International Union, Pennsylvania state Senator Jim Ferlo, and Pittsburgh United. And this is all in a three-day period, from September 23 to 25.
Still, Pittsburgh police are not used to such massive protests and I’m leery of their recent training efforts. The United States Constitution permits and protects the people’s right to protest. As long as they obey the law, protesters are not criminals, or invaders, or terrorists. We really must ensure that every city police officer understands that the oath to uphold the Constitution includes this right to protest.
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