Published in the Portland Phoenix
As President Obama prepares to ask representatives of the world's largest economic powers for more money to help reverse the global recession, thousands of activists will take to the streets to protest the policies of the G-20 and its members, who are meeting in Pittsburgh on Thursday and Friday.
Paul McCarrier, a Portland activist and anarchist who also protested at the 2008 Republican National Convention (see "Judge Dismisses RNC Protest Case," by Jeff Inglis, February 6), helped organize a contingent from New England who have traveled to Pennsylvania and are already setting up for several days of community festivals, marches, and protests.
On the agenda for this week's official talks will be whether the G-20 nations, which include the US, China, Europe, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, will give as much as $1 trillion to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, international groups that invest in developing nations. Protestors, including McCarrier, will be arguing that those groups' projects "destroy local economies" by increasing dependence on foreign aid rather than teaching self-reliance.
"We need to stand in solidarity with people who live in the global South, whose lives are being destroyed," McCarrier says, explaining his motives for protesting. (Activists gathering are from many groups who represent a wide range of populist, anarchist, progressive, and other perspectives.) The 24 finance ministers and central-bank executives who sit on the G-20 board "shouldn't have the power to decide things for all six billion people," he says.
While activists and officials alike say they hope the demonstrations remain peaceful, McCarrier and others are anticipating aggression by police, and are bringing gas masks and other equipment for "defensive" purposes.
There will be thousands of police and National Guard troops stationed in Pittsburgh, according to plans reported in that city's alternative newspaper, City Paper, and its daily, the Post-Gazette.
Those officers have been getting trained by London police, which protestors object to because at the G-20 meeting in that city in April, police assaulted a man who was walking home from work; the man, who had not been involved in the protests but rather worked within a police-erected security cordon, died minutes later. Three autopsies have been done, and a London officer has been interviewed in the ongoing manslaughter investigation.
Pittsburgh city leaders have also taken some odd steps aimed at curbing demonstrations. The city council refused to ban the wearing of masks, but according to the Post-Gazette the council did approve special powers meaning police can cite anyone carrying PVC pipe, carabiners, and even gas masks in the city, if officers believe they will be used to disrupt public order.
Noah Williams, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project, says the city has ordered 1000 canisters of tear gas, "which is a strange move if you're not planning on using tear gas."
McCarrier is concerned that police will try to suppress the public outcry, noting that the city, as many cities do, requires a permit for a march. "You have the right to express yourself any way the government sees fit," he says wryly.
Williams says the groups he is coordinating with want to create "a space where the people the decisions are going to affect will have a voice," but admits he is not sure the G-20 delegates will get the message.
"They certainly have not shown a history of listening to the people whose interests they're supposed to have at heart," he says.
To follow G-20 protests and related news, visit resistg20.org and g20media.org.