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

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).
Comments () | Archives (19)

The comments to this entry are closed.

"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism"...and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I want you to look at...

Anti-abortion? Really??

Does anyone besides me wonder why unarmed protesters of all our wars and organizations, such as the G-20, are always met with menacing looking police in riot gear with loud-speakers, clubs, tear gas, and hand cuffs only to be forced back from any venue and arrested - while protesters with exposed assualt rifles are treated with respect at venues where President Obama is speaking about health care for all Americans? Am I the only one who sees and questions the insanity in this incredible contradiction???

Well, it's a good thing they weren't violent like those 9/12 tea parties were.

It's obvious these are those awful "Teabaggers" we've been hearing so much about.

CHEERS G-20 RESISTANCE! Keep it up, don't stop until the conference collapses!

I have to wonder if these are largely the same people that were protesting the G20 when Bush was in office.

I assume these are the kind of protesters that Pelosi likes.

Jimmie: Yep. With posters and everything.

"Am I the only one who sees and questions the insanity in this incredible contradiction???"

Am I the only one who sees Marie's shock that police will fire tear gas at upper middle class white kids throwing rocks at them but wouldn't arrest that uppity negro who was lawfully carrying a gun for what it is?

Do you think there will be a week of negative media coverage of the G-20 protestors as hooded racists opposing Obama because he's black? Naw, I didn't think so either. Here's how the liberal media works: Peaceful conservative protestors Bad, maybe Evil Racists; Violent lefty anarchist protestors Good, probably the Truest Patriots of All.

It's interesting to note that these violent leftist G-20 protests have led to fifteen arrests, so far, while the Sep 12 Tea Party had none. In fact, it was pretty much a pro-police protest. The Tea Party protestors picked up after themselves so that the National Mall was neat as a pin when they left, as opposed to the trash left by Obama supporters after his inauguration parade. By contrast, the G-20 anarchists are purposely trashing the streets and setting fires. There is a metaphor here. Can you spot it?

Personally, I'm glad to hear the Pittsburgh police have plenty of pepper spray to unload on the likes of P.J. Huffstutter. It's hard to think of anyone more deserving. I only wish they'd follow it up with a wood shampoo.

Maybe, Marie, it is because those "unarmed protesters" unlawfully assemble, intentionally disrupt the every day life of average citizens, destroy private and public property and then arm themselves with rocks and molotov cocktails when the police tell them to knock it off, while the scary anti-government health care protesters really do peacably assemble, clean up after themselves and, when they choose to execute their Constitutional right to bear arms, do so responsibly and lawfully.


You're over generalizing, that's not always true at all. But in cases like this, it's probably (well, definitely) because the protests that the G-# meetings, WTO meetings, etc.. tend to attract are almost invariably violent and include rioting and looting and even when they are not, it still is the public perception that they can get out of hand at any moment.

I also think you're mashing very things together. Anti-War protests and Anti-Capitalism/Anti-Globalism/Pro-Collectivist Anarchy protests are two very very very different things.

Think of it this way, if you were leading a police department, in charge of looking out for the public safety of your citizens, the great majority of whom are not involved in these protests, not to mention the important guests meeting in your town, you would probably install menacing looking police as a deterrent/quick stop gap should things get out of hand too.

I also do not think there's a particular scourge of people wielding assault rifles at events that the President is speaking at. I can think of a single incident, which I think is what you're talking about, but it's more than a little disingenuous to try to extrapolate that all opponents of the health care changes that are on the table are machine gun wielding loonies based on a single incident... as opposed to what we have at the G-20 meeting, which is a group similar in make-up and action to the broad pool of experiences seen in other cities that held these conferences.

Hee.. Hee.. 1.8 Million conservative protests swarm DC, and they don't even leave litter behind, let alone disturb the peace. (Except liberal peace of mind) 2000 liberal protesters arrive in Pittsburgh and immediately start damaging property, attacking police, and in general starting a riot. Who are the "unruly angry mobs" Mrs. Speaker? Hello? Mrs. Pelosi?

"Does anyone besides me wonder why unarmed protesters of all our wars and organizations, such as the G-20, are always met with menacing looking police in riot gear with loud-speakers, clubs, tear gas, and hand cuffs only to be forced back from any venue and arrested - while protesters with exposed assualt rifles are treated with respect at venues where President Obama is speaking about health care for all Americans? Am I the only one who sees and questions the insanity in this incredible contradiction???

Posted by: Marie Estelle Spike | September 24, 2009 at 07:37 PM "

Hopefully you are the only one because you are a total tool. Oh yes, all those scary weapons at the tea parties (1, 2, maybe three folks out of the 100s of thousands-- possibly millions-- involved country wide, and ZERO violence save that unleashed by SEIU thugs and deranged leftwing finger biters)! vs the long, long history of lefty riots and violence at every G-summit since BEFORE Seattle, the anti-war BUSHHITLER freakshows, Code Pink protests at military hospitals, etc, etc, etc. Yeah, stay in your ignorant, stunningly disconnected fantasy world, just PLEASE don't vote...

To Marie:
The G20 protesters have historically been violent. The tea party protesters have not.

Am I the only one who can see that you can't see facts?

They may be unarmed, but they sure do like to break windows in businesses and wreak havoc. Show me where any of the Obama protesters shot anyone or broke windows?

The idiots with the sign No Borders, No Banks should have written on it. No Brains, Beat ME!!

I hope they get pounded THEN arrested!!

No mention of the L-RAD Sonic Cannons? Or the 2,000 Military patrolling those streets?
Maybe when you're done clearing your head in the shower you can think for a minute about the fact that many soldiers will blindly obey their orders, whether they are constitutional or not.
Does anybody find it strange that today, because of Obama's seat as President of the Security Council (for the month), that he is being called the President of the World?
Yeah.. but back to the protesters who throw rocks and deserved to be shot at with bean bags.. the gaza strip is a crazy place.. oh, sorry, I mean Pittsburgh is a crazy place

Wow, Tantor. The fact that such a short item churned up so much emotion in a reader...well, that is something.

Considering I covered some of the earliest Tea Party actions in Indiana, when both conservative and liberal groups were fighting against property tax overhauls that were resulting in people losing their homes, I'm not exactly sure how I fall into the reviled category of uber-evil, blue-state-lovin', red-state-hatin' scribe that deserves to be beaten into unconsciousness with a tree branch.

But *shrug*...what do I know? I'm just a journalist.


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A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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