Second Update: See bottom of this post for embedded video from wearchange.org for footage of events leading to Luke's arrest.
After a long day of collecting pictures in Pittsburgh, Julie and I were finally sitting down in a restaurant near the Pirates Stadium. We were watching the television coverage of the G-20, including NBC's story about how thoroughly the security forces outnumbered the protesters. It's true: Despite anything you've seen so far about the summit, there just wasn't a whole lot of chaos, especially downtown, which was essentially deserted except for an orderly march of Tibetan monks (whose saffron robes would have made a great photo, but alas, we missed it), some flag-waving Tibetan protesters, and media of all stripes, including average citizens out with their camcorders hoping for a shot of the President arriving at the William Penn Hotel. East of the city--about three miles out in Lawrenceville--were the more serious protesters who were affiliated with the G-20 Resistance Project. Later at night there was some dramatic action in Oakland, the artsy area of Pittsburgh that houses the museums, two major universities (Carnegie-Mellon and Pitt) and Phipps Conservatory, where the dignitaries had dinner. Most of that crowd consisted of curious students, who were nevertheless OC-vapored, rubber-bulleted, and generally made to disperse.
But back to our dinner at Atrios Restaurant near PNC Park: Eating our salads (to make up for the junk we'd had the day before), we suddenly realized that Brian Williams of NBC was standing in front of one of the two bridges right outside the stadium. And there was clearly a protester interrupting his broadcast. Whoa--the news had come to us!
Picture this: a ground floor, makeshift, outdoor, NBC studio on the banks of the Allegheny River right between the Roberto Clemente Bridge and the Andy Warhol Bridge.
We raced outside thinking the little gathering of people and lights on the Roberto Clemente Bridge was NBC. Silly us. They required tons more equipment and technical support. The people on the bridge were the protesters who were interrupting the broadcast, shouting from a bullhorn over the railing. They are from the the organization We Are Change, and their views are radical; they hold just about every conspiratorial theory out there, from the threat of One World Government and currency to the massive government complicity and coverup of 9/11. Obama is just a puppet, as was George W. Bush, and they are equal opportunity scorners of the two major US political parties. Still, not everything they say is crazy (I'm thinking here of some of their complaints that the media spend too much energy on Britney Spears and not enough on important matters), and I found myself charmed by their earnest efforts, however misguided their beliefs.
First, a glimpse of Brian Williams' broadcast from somebody's TV (obtained from youtube). At around 1:19, you'll hear the protester disrupt the broadcast and note the exasperation of all concerned.
Now for our original footage. A few important points:
1. There are at least three young men involved with the group who take turns using the bullhorn. The one in the light blue shirt is Luke Rudkowski, and he happens to have been featured in this very broadcast of Nightly News when Brian Williams went to footage of the protesters in Lawrenceville. (That footage is edited out from this youtube broadcast, but you can see it here on the 2:11 mark of NBC's own footage.) I find it gloriously ironic that during this whole scene, Brian Williams and the NBC people do not know that the person interrupting their broadcast is someone they've just shown pictures of from across town.
2. All during the protest, NBC executives made their way from their makeshift studio to the little encampment on the bridge, appealing to the protesters to stop their disruption. In this relatively long video of ours, look for the short woman in an aqua sweater who negotiates with the boys and for the big man in white shirt and tie. They are both NBC execs, and the man in particular threw around the word "assholes" pretty frequently when officiously spewing to higher ups into his cell phone. I was enthralled with the power these twerps (and I use that term affectionately) had over national media.
3. The protesters hadn't planned this. They were trudging across the bridge when they saw the lights of the studio and began their impromptu siege. They figured out soon enough that they were dealing with NBC, and they even discerned from afar that when the green light was on, the anchor was live and when when it was off they could take a little break. One thing they didn't know was the anchor's name, and I violated a big rule of journalism by supplying it for them. I did it without thinking; one of them said, "Does anyone know who this dude is?" and I just blurted out, "Brian Williams." Oops. Sure enough, all their subsequent bull-horned shouts included appeals to Brian Williams himself.
4. Except when they started attacking FOX. That's because the NBC execs came up and told them--falsely--that FOX was broadcasting down there too. What a brilliant tactical move. At this point, the protesters laid off Brian Williams and started into Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly. (They didn't have any trouble with that network's big names). At least NBC's Nightly News was featuring rants against their competitors rather than themselves!
We've edited tons out, but here's a glimpse. We asked Mr. NBC for comment but he wasn't interested.
This video is from wearechange.org, and it shows the events of Friday night that led to Luke's arrest. I found the drumming of sticks on shields by police particularly chilling: