Confronting the G20

Confronting the G20

Green activists speak out at summit and are met with police violence
e b bortz, Pennsylvania Green Party

Police block participants at the G20 Summit march on September 24th in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. They are standing in front of Iron City Brewery, which has moved out of the city. Photo by Mark Child
Police block participants at the G20 Summit march on September 24th in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ironically, they are blocking access down Liberty Avenue in front of Iron City Brewery, which has moved out of the city. Photo by Mark Child

In spite of this calamity, Greens and activists exposed the G20 policies that have led to endless war, poverty, gross injustices and inequality, and a planet deep in ecological crisis.

From devastated mountaintops in West Virginia to the streets and federal court rooms in Pittsburgh, Greens and activists from across the country brought their clear, unequivocal voices to the representatives of corporate global power known as the G20 Finance Ministers Summit.

The G20 met on September 24 and 25 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in an atmosphere of military lockdown, pepper spray, rubber bullets, riot gear, armored personnel carriers, and sound cannons. A background of corporate smiley faces welcomed “the world” to Pittsburgh while ignoring the human devastation of the global economic meltdown.

In spite of this calamity, Greens and activists exposed the G20 policies that have led to endless war, poverty, gross injustices and inequality, and a planet deep in ecological crisis.

Vivek Ananthan, Philadelphia Green and member of the Green Party International Committee, speaks with a reporter at the Peopleís March in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Lisa Hodaei
Vivek Ananthan, Philadelphia Green and member of the Green Party International Committee, speaks with a reporter at the Peopleís March in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Lisa Hodaei

There were numerous preliminary bouts with Pittsburgh city officials and ultimately a federal court case over the right to assemble and protest, hold demonstrations and workshops in tent cities and encampments, and even to gather for music making. Legal teams from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center on Constitutional Rights, and the National Lawyers Guild all pitched in pro bono to squeeze out a few concessions from local and federal authorities. Without publicly fighting and winning specific provisions for some of the marches, rallies, and encampments, the climate of fear and violence-baiting would have prevailed unabated, thereby reducing participation in many events.

Members of the Green Party of Allegheny County played key roles in organizing some of the events such as The Peopleís Summit which drew hundreds over a three-day period, the Peopleís March on September 25th with 8,000 participants, and a three-day no-holds-barred reading from “Poets on the Loose.” But most important, local Greens were a vital part of the initial organizing within a diverse group of activists from the Antiwar Committee of the Thomas Merton Center, Pittsburgh’s leading peace and social justice organization.

Green Party leader Jesse Johnson, a founder of the West Virginia Mountain Party, made an important contribution as a presenter in a Peopleís Summit workshop on environmental justice. Johnson spoke at length on the grip of the coal and chemical companies of West Virginia on local communities, and their relationship to local and state politics.

When asked if there were any similarities between the G20 and the Coal Communityís struggle for environmental justice, Johnson said, ìthese plights are virtually indistinguishable when compared. In each scenario you have the multi-national powers that be, taking from the poor and its progeny and giving to those who feel genuinely entitled to decide the future of those who believe themselves to be sovereign or at the very least in some countries empowered. Secondly, you have a complicit press and political government owned or rented by special interest and used as tools to squelch dissent. Ö The People’s Summit was an example of what is still right in our country Ö at least there are those citizens and scholars who take the initiative to express dissent and educate a struggling citizenry.î

Titus North, former Green Party candidate for Congress (2006 and 2008), was a presenter at the Peopleís Summit workshop on the war economy. North explained the bailouts to Wall Street as well as the connection between monetary policy and the financing of the military budget.

Greens participated in “Poets on the Loose” at the entrance to Point State Park, downtown, a free speech focal point. A total of 25 poets read aloud over a three-day period, getting media attention, and interacting with passersby and Women’s Tent City participants.

On September 23rd, Greenpeace activists were successful in hanging a large banner from the West End Bridge spanning the Ohio River with the message “DANGER…Climate Destruction Ahead…Reduce CO2 Emissions NOW.” Another Greenpeace group near the Fort Pitt Bridge was arrested as their banner was being unfurled.

Green Party candidate for New York City Mayor, Reverend Billy Talen, spoke in Arsenal Park on September 24th to a thousand anti-authoritarian activists and community residents. By the time the subsequent march spilled into the streets of Lawrenceville, the crowd had swelled to nearly two thousand. Police responded with pepper spray, rubber bullets, a noise cannon, military formation assaults, and the arrest of nearly 70 people dispersed into several neighborhoods. Some people required emergency room care.

Eight thousand joined The Peopleís March on September 25th bringing out a broad coalition of groups marching over a three-mile route. The streets were filled with a sea of banners and signs including The Green Party, Single-Payer HR676, Code Pink Women for Peace, climate crisis and environmental justice, Free Palestine, United Steel Workers. There were large numbers of student, youth, artist, and antiwar participants. Bail-Out-The-People, a community tent city contingent, led a feeder march from the Hill District, a largely African-American neighborhood. Iraq Veterans Against the War along with monks from Tibet and Burma led the entire march to the downtown steps of the City-County Building.

The evening and night of September 25th became one of terror for a large group of students, activists, and innocent bystanders. A youthful gathering in Schenley Plaza in the university neighborhood of Oakland, a typical practice on most Friday nights, brought about an unprovoked police assault that included rubber bullets and pepper spray. The police assault included an invasion of University of Pittsburgh facilities and surrounding grounds resulting in the injury and arrest of at least 111 people. Subsequent reports from arrestees and witnesses indicated that there was widespread physical, verbal, and emotional abuse from the hands of authorities during the arrest and incarcerations. Legal, political, and publicity organizing is underway to defend all arrestees, a struggle that will likely continue for many months.

Through all of this, many hands pulled together to hold the Green Party banner… as we carry on.

e b bortz is a poet and Green Party activist from Pittsburgh.†His work has appeared in many publications and at:†http://ebbortz.blogspot.com

The Green Party Ten Key Values are held high at the Peopleís March on September 25th to protest the G20 Economic Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Mark Child
The Green Party Ten Key Values are held high at the Peopleís March on September 25th to protest the G20 Economic Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Mark Child

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