Patricia A. O'Malley

Social Policy & Programs Consulting

Training and Services for agencies working toward social and economic justice

Pittsburgh Must Encourage G-20 Protests
August 19, 2009




The G-20 is coming to Pittsburgh.  These people control 85 percent of the world’s economy.  When they sneeze, we catch cold.  They’ll be meeting to discuss the world financial crisis, its ramifications, and potential solutions.  Everyone has a stake in these meetings.

Whenever there is a “G” meeting, advocacy groups organize protests and actions to demonstrate their issues.  They want to spread their messages to the people with influence in the world.  Yes, there have been cases of protests getting out of hand.  Those people do more harm than good to their causes.  Pittsburgh’s leaders are trying to prevent the demonstrations.  They’re taking the wrong approach.

They’ve denied march permits to several groups.  City schools will be closed on September 24 and 25, the meeting days.  Mark my words.  On those days, PAT bus service will be stopped and roads and bridges will be closed.  Do they really think that's going to help?  We’ll all just have to find another way to get into downtown.

I firmly believe in the power of public protest.  It is our right – and our duty – to protest injustice whenever and wherever we find it.  But I’m a big chicken.  Contrary to what many believe, I am not an anarchist.  I do not want to see mass chaos and violence.  Seriously, folks, we all need to be adult about this.

The groups protesting include the Thomas Merton Center, The People’s Summit, the Women’s Coalition, and State Senator (and former city council member) Jim Ferlo, D-Lawrenceville.  They’re protesting for political, social, and economic justice.  I’ve known many of these people for nearly 30 years.  Their politics are surely progressive.  They are some of the most responsible people I know.  These people don’t do this for personal gain.  They do it to make a better world for all of us.

If history teaches us anything, it’s that the protests are inevitable.  Instead of trying – and failing – to stifle protest, the city should embrace and encourage it.

Human nature guarantees dissent.  The U.S. Constitution guarantees protest.  Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Police Chief Nathan Harper, the FBI, Secret Service, and other government agents assigned to this event have all taken oaths to uphold the Constitution.  Rather than stifle dissent, it is their legal and moral obligation to find a way to make it work.  The city’s Web site includes content boasting about Pittsburgh being chosen for the summit.  That’s fine.  Gee, I don’t see them boasting about violating the law and repressing our civil liberties.

In a July 20 editorial, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggested 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 are delivered, the demonstrations may be less forceful.  It’s a great idea, but there’s no sign yet that the Pittsburgh G-20 Partnership will follow through.  

Instead of holding their breath and stomping their feet, they need to grow up and face their responsibilities.  And they need to do it before someone gets hurt.

This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.

- Theodore Roosevelt -

Contact Pat to get email notice of all new Community Matters articles.​

Patricia A. O'Malley
Social Policy & Programs Consulting    ~    Community Matters
P.O. Box 97803    ~    Pittsburgh, PA  15227   ~    412-310-4886    ~
Copyright Patricia A. O'Malley    ~    All rights reserved
Established 1993​