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Pittsburgh gasps fumes at G-20: a teary-eye witness report

September 24, 2009 |  6:24 pm

Pittsburgh demonstrators are gassed during G-20 protests there 9-24-09

From the front lines in Pittsburgh:

If you're traveling to Pittsburgh in the next couple of days, don’t forget to pack your goggles.

About the same time as President Obama and wife Michelle were stepping off Air Force One in Pennsylvania, protesters in the city were clashing with the cops.

The protesters weren’t even supposed to be out Thursday. Tomorrow is the day of the official march, and scores of groups have obtained parade permits to take to the streets.

Peacefully, they promise.

Don't hold your breath.

Or wait: Maybe you should, after what happened in Pittsburgh today.

Why? Because there’s been talk for weeks of threats by groups of self-described anarchists ...

... to take action against “corporate” sites such as — wait for it — Trader Joe's.

Why else? Because the march Thursday afternoon started out peacefully. Nearly 2,000 people gathered at Arsenal Park, about two miles from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, where the....

...bigwigs are gathered to talk really important global issues and eat pretty well.

Today, the demonstrators seemed happy. At least, as happy as an antiabortion, antiwar, anti-government, anti-consumerism, anti-seemingly-everything crowd can be.

But when it became very clear that the cops were not going to let the crowd anywhere near the convention center, things went bad.

The protesters started throwing rocks at police and police cars, and dragging trash containers into the middle of the street to block traffic. No surprise, the police fired canisters of pepper spray, white smoke and some rubber bullets into the crowds.

Pittsburgh Police welcoming committee 9-24-09

Have you ever inhaled that stuff? Holy mother of cheese, dude, does it burn!

Eyes stream. Lungs feel as if they'd inhaled a bowlful of cayenne. Noses become a complete running mess. And nothing says professional newsperson like a face full of snot.

As of Thursday evening, police had arrested 15 people, a paltry number compared with what happened in London. But tomorrow's crowds are supposed to be far larger.

The group that organized Thursday’s unauthorized march, the G-20 Resistance Group, is encouraging members to spend tomorrow morning taking unspecified actions against local offices of corporations deemed evil.

Or, in their words: “We'll be working to undermine the G-20 summit by attacking their power, making connections to the local manifestations of their neoliberal agenda. … The G-20 is in a house of cards: let's shake the table.”

Meanwhile, back to the head-clearing shower.

-- P.J. Huffstutter

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Photo: Philip Scott Andrews / Associated Press; Jacqueline Larma / Associated Press (Pittsburgh police welcome committee).
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