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Protesters drop in on Pittsburgh for G-20 summit

September 23, 2009 |  6:30 pm

Greenpeace at G-20

The G-20 summit hasn’t even begun in Steel City, and already the protests have started.

Under stormy skies Wednesday morning, a group of Greenpeace protesters scaled Pittsburgh's West End Bridge and hung a banner that read “Danger: Climate destruction ahead.” The banner, and several members of the group, hung off the bridge until some not-so-amused police officers arrived and arrested them.

All told, police said that 14 members of Greenpeace were arrested in connection with the bridge stunt, as well as a protest at a second bridge, and will be charged with a variety of misdemeanors. The security here is tight, bordering on feeling like a military state. The city, which is paying to have thousands of additional police working this week, has stationed cop cars along each bridge and along the roadways leading into Pittsburgh’s riverfront downtown.

In downtown, as military vehicles and police cars patrolled the streets and set up metal-wall barricades, crews of construction workers spent Wednesday afternoon boarding up shop windows and doors with sheets of plywood. Locals worried about potential violence and traffic nightmares, a sentiment shared in storefronts both small (cafes and mom-and-pop grocery stores) and large (offices used by the Catholic Church’s Pittsburgh diocese).

Such concern was fueled by an online list of more than 100 possible locations for antiwar, anti-government, anti-globalization and -- well, insert your favorite anti- group here -- to protest during the two-day gathering. The list, which can be viewed here, was compiled by a local coalition of protest groups, and locations include Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods grocery stores, Starbucks cafes and a few strip clubs.

“I’m staying home and ...

... far away from this mess,” said Lindsay Donohue, 24, who said she works as a cocktail waitress at a couple of downtown restaurants. “I don’t want to take a chance of being here if something goes wrong.”

Anti-G-20 groups say they’re already having trouble with too-zealous law enforcement. Not that they’re getting much sympathy in the courts. This week, a federal judge ruled in favor of the city – and against two protest groups – saying the groups had not suffered “irreparable harm” after police searched their members over the weekend.

Judge Gary Lancaster added that he would not prevent the city from conducting such searches in the future.

--P.J. Huffstutter

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Photo: Greenpeace activists at the West End Bridge spanning the Ohio River near downtown Pittsburgh. Credit: AFP/Getty Images.

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