G20 Summit Brings Martial Law to Pittsburgh (Link to Part 2)
See Part 2 --- Visions of a Future That Isn't Defined by G20 Summits
Update: What's a Sonic Cannon?
News reports from the ground at the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh are giving the impression that there is a lot of confusion and fear. Reporters aren’t giving a complete picture of the intentions of activists and most likely are focusing in on the anarchists to provide a representation of ongoing protest actions in the city.
To challenge coverage that is omitting the reality that workers, students, concerned citizens, and dedicated activists are holding actions aimed at educating the public and challenging G20 proponents and policies through principled dissent and community-based action, I called a few individuals who are participating in actions during the summit.
All three led me to conclude that there is a strategy that has been carefully calculated by military, police, and government officials that specifically allows for the criminalizing and suppressing of dissent. Security in Pittsburgh is really a military occupation and martial law is being enforced in the city of Pittsburgh.
Think back to this summer when reports were coming from Iran on Ahmadinejad suppressing those who were rising up against the results of the election. Americans were outraged that the Iranian government would attack protests, target students, and prohibit press and media from operating inside the country.
Focus was placed on how Twitter was directly benefiting the people of Iran. Nobody would have thought that what was happening there could happen here (unless you pay close attention to U.S. government policies and actions), but Alex Lohorto, an SDS organizer with a group called Student Power in the Face of Empire, explained that what Americans found to be despicable in Iran months ago is happening in Pittsburgh right now.
Lohorto described how a student space was raided where people were using Twitter. The police tear gassed students who were preparing to conduct actions during the G20 summit.
A police clash between protesters occurred Thursday night on the University of Pittsburgh campus. It was impossible to count how many cops with shields where there.
Lohorto contended that the security presence was there to send a message that they would suppress any student organizing efforts and even actions that “appear” to be organized actions. Police fired smoke grenades on SDS students (OS gas which makes your eyes hurt but doesn’t necessarily make you hurt) who were chanting, “Who’s school? Our school,” in response to the police presence.
Students who were trying to go to their dorms were blocked from going into their rooms. They were told to go home and leave the campus. Police even used mace on students who were standing outside of a bar who were not acting against the G20 in any way at all.
Throughout Thursday, the police were using all kinds of equipment aimed at controlling protests. For the first time on U.S. soil, a device that had been used in South Korea called a long-range acoustic device (LRAD) was used.
An LRAD lets out a blasting siren noise that makes it impossible for you to hear anything. It is the siren sound that you might have heard if you were watching CNN’s coverage of anarchists on Thursday. (Lohorto said students found out that if you howl like a dog you can recalibrate your hearing.)
The Guardian from the UK reported on the LRAD:
But US security forces turned the piercing sound on their own citizens yesterday to widespread outrage. Pittsburgh officials told the New York Times that it was the first time "sound cannon" had been used publicly.
Military helicopters hovered over areas with tanks of tear gas that they could drop on protesters. The tear gas is heavy enough to not blow all over.
Loharto told me that nearly twenty million dollars had been spent on security.
National Guard are snatching kids and throwing them in cars. This is martial law and Pittsburgh is under military occupation.
This arrest or kidnapping is what happens at least every other day in Iran and, in fact, the International Campaign for Human Rights mentions many instances of kidnapping and disappearings in Iran by military forces.
Michael Leon Guerrero, organizational coordinator for the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, described the military and police presence as a complete overreaction, something aimed at making sure there is no way for people to dissent. He added that access to downtown and the city has been completely shut off and that police are creating confusion and fear especially by firing tear gas at students at local universities.
He said from the airport to the city (which is about 10-20 miles) every on ramp has police squad cars. Bridges have been shut down to make it easier to organize the military and police. Military helicopters are flying over and Humvees are everywhere. Coast guard are patrolling the rivers. This is on a scale never seen before.
What this all signals, according to Guerrero, is a zero-tolerance policy for activities that challenge security.
He went on to suggest that the media has promoted a state of fear and it is tough to really know what is going on since activities are decentralized. Local people are afraid to be out participating in activities and this is all largely a part of a very comprehensive strategy to shut down protests.
From the Thomas Merton Center Anti-War Committee, a spokesperson addressed the images coming from protests at the G20, images of anarchists losing control,. This person suggested that Americans think of how people who go to football games will sometimes riot after their team wins or loses.
She added not all sports fans are violent and Americans should think of how diverse and various activists are who have mobilized and how many of the people in Pittsburgh are really here to educate and spread awareness of what the G20 really means for Americans and the world.
People look at totalitarian regimes and get angry but this is happening with the consent of Obama. Loharto said Obama is asking American workers to accept globalization is inevitable, accept your jobs will go overseas, and don’t bother with doing anything stop this from happening.
On Tuesday, September 22nd , the ACLU challenged the detaining of a peace bus carrying food for protesters. The ACLU was told police can do whatever they want under national security.
On Monday, September 21st, Lohorto said he was on a bus following another bus when a police squad on motorcycles stopped the bus he was behind. The cops boarded the bus and began searching and looking for people. He thinks the cops were looking for him especially since they raided his community farm where he was living.
As an organizer, Loharot knows police would like nothing more than to shut him down. And, it’s reasonable for Lohorto to think like this because before the Republican National Convention activists planning actions were preemptively detained so they could not participate or lead actions. They were deliberately trying to invoke fear in the local community so less people would come out in opposition to the RNC. [Activists are still facing charges of “conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism.” ]
Overnight, Lohorto around 600 participated in an unpermitted march that moved around the city. The march utilized Twitter for communication and kept the security presence in Pittsburgh busy trying to bring to a halt their actions.
See Part 2 --- Visions of a Future That Isn't Defined by G20 Summits
And also check out National Lawyers Guild: Cops Run Wild in Pittsburgh