Friday, October 2, 2009

G20 in Pittsburgh

It's been about a week since we've been back from pittsburgh, and I'm still processing the whole experience. I will say that it was a good experience and that I'm glad that I went. We had a fun crew and we had a good time for sure. Road trips, no matter the destination, always seem to make for good stories, and this trip was no exception. I wanted to share a few of my pics and a few thoughts.

As for the protest itself, I guess I have mixed feelings. We stayed fairly close to the anarchist groups the whole time, because I guess those are the folks there I feel I can relate to the most. My personal hope was to connect with some Christian kids and do the litany of resistance from CPT, but the two days we were there went by like a blur.

We stopped by a coffee house and then the Thomas Merton Center, before heading to the march on Thursday. The march was organized by a more radical group and they had no permits. They said (and I agree with them) that it seemed dumb and undemocratic to ask the people you're protesting for permission to protest them. We arrived at the park and there was people everywhere (2,000 maybe?). Rev. Billy from the Church of Stop Shopping was attracting a lot of media attention (pictured above) and was pretty entertaining. The black bloc kids were getting interviewed by TV folks, which seemed strange. I guess its good that they could explain where they were coming from a bit, because I'm sure few people in the mainstream have any sense of what their action is about. The march began to leave the park with drums and chants and started to head toward downtown. After maybe a quarter or half mile, the police declared it an illegal assembly and ordered us to cease immediately. They then used a "non-lethal" sonic blast, that was super obnoxious, though we were far enough that it didnt hurt us. Our crew decided to stop and just walk down another street, and many others went the same way. Others kept marching, but strangely enough after about ten minutes all the streets flowed into one and the march was back together and everyone cheered. At that point some kids brought a dumpster int other street and flipped it and were standing on it chanting "whose streets? our streets!" One of goals was not to get arrested, unless it was for something meaningful, and this didn't fit the bill. We decided to walk a block parallel. At that point the cops cut them off and blocked their path. I don't know the order, but at that point there was a standoff and the cops were shooting teargas and the black bloc kids rolled a dumpster down the hill at the cops. As soon as we felt the tear gas on our face we felt it was due time to get out of there, so we took off running. Other people were running too, some of them pulling dumpsters from the ally and flipping them to create a blockade for vehicles. Police were blockading the streets and things got real chaotic for a bit. Helicopters were swooping, vans full of robot cop like soldiers were storming onto the scene. They weren't giving us any trouble, because we made it fairly clear that we were trying to leave. The streets really did become a police state and a war zone for a bit and we were glad to get out.

Later that night we ate some food and hung at a Cabaret-type thing. We also got some great food. There was a little talk on the street of some late night smash and run, but that's not what we were there for either, so we declined. The riot cops were coming in by the busload to surround the conservatory in a park on campus where the delegates were said to be having dinner. The park was mostly drunk and curious college kids, and very few protesters. We were exhausted, so we just went back to the house that we were staying. Sure enough a lot stuff went down that night. Windows were smashed, and there was a standoff with the cops. It was said that someone threw a brick at the cops and so they unloaded their tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on the crowd. There's youtube videos showing the college students getting the worst of it in their own residence halls. Pretty wild.

The next day was a little more laid back more marching and rallies. more signs. more chants. more bandannas. more riot cops. little to no violence this day. That was nice. A few good speakers at the rally, a few I really didn't like at all. typical socialist rhetoric from the latter. The march ended in a park with a few more speakers and some music and some delicious food. Theres tons of funny side stories, but this is already longer than I wanted to write.

My thoughts: I thought there was a good turn out and a lot of neat folks there. I was disapointed in the lack of creative non-violent direct actions. I thought there was a lack in creativity in general. Also, the only point was disruption and media attention, as where protests of major summits in the past had shutting the whole thing down as a goal. AS a neo-luddite of sorts (at this point I'm a hypocrite for writing a blog...) I feel when property and technology becomes worshiped and seen as more important than people, community and the planet, those things may need to get smashed as the idols of the old testament were. However, breaking windows of some chain stores and a bank isn't really that. At that point all the creative power of radicalism is gone, and the media associates anarchism with destruction rather than building. I still hope that we (Christians and/or radicals) could be known for the creative and constructive of rebuilding society from the group up rather than breaking some windows. I don't really know what else I want to say. I didn't plan anything or do anything creative or good, so I can't just complain, but I was fairly disappointed with the overall "actions" and demonstrations. Still, like I said at the beginning, it was a really great trip with some friends, and it really caused me to sit back and think a lot about the meaning, means, and ends of resistance. It's going to be a long journey to understanding what I think.

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