Clashes between police and G20 protesters continue into the night in Pittsburgh. A cycle of dispersal and regroupment has been underway since early this afternoon. Police ramped up their aggressiveness after being overwhelmed early at Arsenal Park.1
Schenley Park just outside of the University of Pittsburgh, was the scene of some of the most volatile interactions of the day. At first, student onlookers, seemingly not initially affiliated with the G20 protests, challenged riot police and were violently repulsed. Then, protesters massed in the park and marched on the police line. Tear gas was fired, but the wind was with the protesters and blew the gas back on the police themselves. Massive numbers of police then surrounded the park. The protest dwindled as young people, fatigued by a day of being chased by the police through streets of Pittsburgh, retreated in search of food and much needed rest.
There was property damage today, but it was either defensive or immediately quashed by the protesters themselves. A sound and gas attack by police resulted in the overturning of some dumpsters — a futile symbolic act of self-defense not the justification for repression that the mainstream media has reported. Rocks in BMW and Boston Chicken stores were the frustrated outcome of a crowd whose right to assemble had been forcefully revoked. A small band of protesters went further, by smashing ATMs, but they were quickly persuaded against continuing by march organizers themselves.
The police were everywhere. Pinning down protesters, creating confrontations and randomly stopping and searching. Cops came from Ohio, Florida and Arizona. If their numbers were not enough, they employed anti-protest technology. A Long Range Acoustic Device was employed to beam out high-volume sounds and Twitter-journalist visually identified a microwave heat machine which wasn’t used, but stood at the ready to repel demonstrators. Such tools of repression have no place inside a democratic society.
The protesters were brave, standing up against overwhelming repression, policing themselves and sending the message that capitalism has failed them and billions of others around the world. Equally encouraging were the actions of residents of Pittsburgh. Many extended solidarity to the protesters — opening their homes for relief, providing overnight housing free of charge and disregarding work rules to provide a tired demonstrator with a free glass of water or a seat to rest for a moment. Such acts of solidarity offer a basis to think about a different kind of society, one which moves beyond acoustic attacks and tear gas and towards democracy and freedom.