G20 Dispatch #4: While World Leaders Fly Away, Riot Cops Blast Away at U of Pitt
Friday's major action was a permitted "People's March" from Oakland to downtown Pittsburgh and ending with a north side rally, endorsed by dozens of national groups and attended by an estimated 8,000 people. Despite hundreds of riot cops lining every street downtown, no major altercations occurred. (View photos, more info.) But if anyone thought the resistance to the unwanted summit and accompanying police state was over, well, both the police and demonstrators had other ideas.
As the G20 leaders exited their meetings and started to board airplanes,the militarization of Pittsburgh continued well on into the night. A twitter feed received at 10:15 PM on the last day of the G20 summit: Reports of Dark Mark observed in the sky. Dementors in Schenley Plaza. Remember. “I do not consent to a soul kiss”.
As an anti-police brutality rally at the University of Pittsburgh campus turned into a police riot, it almost seemed that the struggles of the wizarding world could really have pertained to what happened here in Pittsburgh on Friday. As curious college students and anarchists alike gathered at Schenley Plaza in an attempt to hold the police accountable to their behaviors from the previous night, they were met by at least 800 riot cops in the surrounding vicinities of the campus.
The riot cops cornered off the area around the park and on Forbes Street, pushing onlookers out with Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs), tear gas and rubber bullets. In an attempt to remain calm, the anti-police brutality participants and other bystanders disbanded to 5th Avenue and other surrounding areas. The riot cops continued to move around the area, corralling people into the campus. No one was allowed to return to their homes across 5th without the fear of being gassed, detained or arrested.
Forty arrests were confirmed in the area inside the student union, including medics and media. One medic, Jeff Bartos, was arrested and handcuffed to the point where his hands were turning blue from lack of oxygen. Several media personnel witnessed a violent arrest of a young man on 5th avenue – he was thrown to the ground by three riot police and shot with rubber bullets several times. Another man was also thrown to the ground and arrested shortly thereafter. Media were videotaping these events and were approached by one riot cop and profusely pepper sprayed. Several people throughout the night independently likened these brutal events to that of Nazi Germany. Though clear hyperbole, perhaps this is not that far off from being a realistic statement.
While media and other innocent onlookers sat in paddy wagons for hours, the riot cops continued to rage their dementor-like soul kisses to all aspects of the University population. Police entered into dorms where students were pepper sprayed in their pajamas while another college student was chased back into his friend’s apartment and punched in the face while he was being arrested for trespassing (See indypgh.org “G-Infinity Stories”). According to an interview with Pittsburgh students who witnessed other clashes with police, a University student was arrested for holding her dorm door open for other students to get inside away from the tear gas.
The less-lethal rubber bullet guns commonly used by riot cops to disperse crowds had some disturbing effects last night as well. While one videographer was being told to get to the ground with around eight other college students, a line of police began to open fire on them, pounding them with rubber bullets while they remained helpless on the pavement. Police also shot rubber bullets into unsuspecting crowds as they were leaving the campus area – hitting one young man in the ear and another on his cheek. Both received abrasions from the impacts of the bullets; luckily the G20 medics were there to treat their injuries.
Around 170 people were arrested and booked in the last few days, some by National Guard personnel. There have been rumors that the campus was under martial law Friday night; although untrue, the bands of roaming men in fatigues have certainly made the campus feel like it. Snatch squads in unmarked vans drove around for hours, threatening people with K-9’s and arresting anyone who appeared to be in black bloc attire. Unfortunately, this type of harassment and brutality exists in other aspects of life – especially in neighborhoods of color. Talking to a man after the march yesterday, he told us of several stories, one of which being how a young boy 12 years old, was shot in the back of the head by neighborhood police. These terroristic acts against communities of color often are negated in the media. It often takes events like the G20 and college riots to bring the realities of police and state brutality into the mainstream light.
Most of those arrested in the last few days are out of jail, either on bail or by their own recognizance. Though the G20 may be over, these last days will be remembered by many of the people that were there to witness the grotesque apparition of the U.S. police state. I can only hope that this will start to challenge people to start asking questions about our current situation and where we are headed in this country. Perhaps the violence from the police will be blamed on the anarchists, but hopefully, some University of Pittsburgh students and other witnesses will begin to mobilize – to help expand the struggle for self-determination, liberation and freedom to live our own lives.
(photos from earlier in the day)
click below for bigger size - all photos by Skadi