Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola
Mishawaka, Indiana, USA
March 10
Kevin Gosztola is a multimedia editor for He will be serving as an intern for The Nation Magazine during the spring in 2011. His work can be found on OpEdNews, The Seminal,, and a blog on Alternet called "Moving Train Media." He is part of CMN News, which produces a weekly podcast or radio show on Talk Shoe. He is a 2009 Young People For Fellow and a documentary filmmaker who graduated with a Film/Video B.A. degree from Columbia College Chicago in the Spring 2010. In April 2010, he co-organized a major arts & media summit called "Art, Access & Action," which explored the intersection of politics, art and media and was supported by Free Press.

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Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 25, 2009 4:13PM

G20 Summit Brings Martial Law to Pittsburgh (Link to Part 2)

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 See Part 2 --- Visions of a Future That Isn't Defined by G20 Summits


Flickr Photo by robjdlc

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:

Sonic weapons or long-range acoustic devices have been used by the US military overseas, notably against Somali pirates and Iraqi insurgents.

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


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the political elite loves protests, it validates them.
great post. it's wierd the way they have police officers outnumbering protesters by 4 to 1 or 2 to 1. It's wierd how afraid they are considering that most of the violence in the past has not come from protesters, but from police officers.
the waste of money disgusts me. i live about 2 miles north of the convention center, and wandered around last night downtown. i saw tons of reporters, more guys with guns and uniforms, and not one protester. i'm aware that the action last night centered on oakland, but from the police/military presence i expected protesters everywhere. it is a totally manufactured event, as the media takes the action of the tiny minority and over reports them, thereby feeding the military/police frenzy. the violent minority get attention, while the Burmese monks get nary a moment of TV time. really, whats more important, a bunch of 'anarchists' or a narco syndicate?

sorry for the rant. all the foolishness makes this native restless!
This is a logical continuation of what our government has been up to for the last several years in the most proximal sense, and last several administrations in the longer sense. It continues what they did at the RNC in Minneapolis/St. Paul in 2008 when they pre-emptively arrested protestors (the RNC 8), brutalized them, and charged them as domestic terrorists.
The Discovery Channel showed LRADs being used by Japanese whaling ships against whale protectors aboard the Sea Shepherd on their program Whale Wars. They were really concerned about what the LRADs would do, but after a few exposures, they found they could function quite well despite the sound. They had been concerned that the helicopter pilot would be unable to keep the chopper in the air, that

Obama once insisted--on the heels of the election in Iran--that peaceful protest was essential to democratic government, but I guess protest in Iran is essential, but it's not so essential here. I mean, government is so responsive to our concerns, after all, that protests aren't necessary. Just the radicals, Francine. Point the LRAD on them, dear.

Oh wait, that's what we call Low Level Terrorism, right?
Oops, ignore that fragment. Didn't edit again. Sigh.
For three days I've been wandering town, and it's been remarkably peaceful and uneventful. Police presence was massive today in particular. The scenes of tumult are not representative of either the police or the protesters.
Damn Teabaggers!!!!!!!!!

Oh, wait.

Lohorto told me police from Miami-Dade were imported into Pittsburgh for security.

Maybe you read Jeremy Scahill's article on the "Miami Model." That model is being used in Pittsburgh as it has been for most of the past decade when big-time political events between leaders happen.
America the beautiful.

It is PAST TIME to violently and physically fight back!!

These scumbag pigs and hired thug kidnappers are the very worst of the worst of any life form.

When I was a LITTLE kid, my father would whip me with a belt and leave welts on my thighs.
If I cried, he would whip me for crying.

I thought he died 30 years ago.
Apparently he's alive and in uniform in Pittsburgh.
Great work here Kevin. Security reactions to actions against summits like the G20, WTO, IMF, wars, etc show just exactly who the powerful are really afraid of.

In addition, I find it quite interesting that for more than a decade, the media, police, government officials and anyone who is willing to defend the status quo label any protester who isn't easily cowed or silenced by security forces as an "anarchist." Much like the word "socialist" or "terrorist," "anarchist" has come to just mean someone who's classified as "bad." Few people understand what the majority of anarchists stand for, preferring to concentrate on the handful of kids who break windows.

To top that off, "direct action" has now become an extremely dirty word - one that gets you scooped up by cops and charged with all sorts of crimes. Since direct action can mean anything from blocking a street to an unpermitted march, it's become increasingly evident that one is allowed to protest or demonstrate against something *only* if you're willing to stay far away from the actual event and be silent. Protests are fine and welcome by the establishment, but only if they're completely impotent and allow business as usual to continue.
Regarding the sound cannon, it's truly scary stuff. What's even scarier is this:

Expect this to be employed at demonstrations here in the US soon enough.
This is unbelievable and unacceptable. Some of the most dangerous among us are all these guys who wear their penises in their holsters, ready to ejaculate on a moment's notice.

And we oohed, aahed and gasped in disbelief when Iran put protestors down because of opposition to the election!

American citizens are asleep, comatose. When will we awaken to the hard, cold facts of military policism in our country? Or is it too late?
You posted an absolutely accurate definition of the TYPICAL cop:

"the most dangerous among us are all these guys who wear their penises in their holsters, ready to ejaculate on a moment's notice."

How can the DECENT ones in their families possibly hold their heads up in self respect KNOWING what these immoral, cowardly butchers do to HUMAN BEINGS?
A great post. So sad that it is true. I am a native Pittsburgher, and I am ashamed that we in our city let this police state develop here. So sad. Cheers for Bike Girl and her colleagues!

Thank you.

And you are not alone.

Denverites just might think back to the Democratic National Convention and be upset they let Denver develop a police state.

Those in the Twin Cities in Minnesota just might think back to the Republican National Convention and wonder why they let the Twin Cities create a police state.

If you have a political event coming to a city near you, you have the opportunity to rise up and condemn such repressive security aimed at stifling dissent.

Not enough Americans take this on. But, with so many losing homes, health insurance, jobs, etc., eventually, they will have no reason to not stand up to the repression or suppression of dissent.

Americans will act because they have nothing better to do. They are without anything and everything---on their own in a world torn apart by the greed that is the centerpiece of capitalism.
The G20 meeting is about the global economy. It is not an election, so any comparisons to governmental and police behavior in any election in any country don't work. Many, many people want to go back to work, me included. We didn't get into this horrible predicament, economically, just in the last few months, and we won't get out of it in just a few months. The host city and the host country have a huge responsibility to allow the G20 participants to think, talk, negotiate, agree and not agree in a quiet and rational environment. If martial law is what is needed, so be it. The elected (or not) officials must do their job to try to get us out of this mess. I think President Obama's level headed and even handed approach is our best hope yet.
What is the source for saying the LRAD has been used before in South Korea? I have been searching for any reference in internet to that, I haven't found it yet. I wonder where/when it was first used in Korea, and whether it's been used several times.. Thanks...

Here is a link showing that LRAD was sold to Korea.

I'll keep my eyes open for more but this is what the student I interviewed said.
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