Mudcat Café message #2733718 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #123871   Message #2733718
Posted By: sing4peace
28-Sep-09 - 09:49 PM
Thread Name: This is no time to be silent...G20 in Pittsburgh
Subject: RE: This is no time to be silent...G20 in Pittsburgh
Howdy Cats -

Back from a busy weekend. Glad to see this thread is generating conversation.

I thought I'd blickie this into the discussion:

This is a first person report from the streets of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania during the G-20 protests. Meanwhile, I am trying to get permission to reproduce some photos from a friend who was present at the demos.

I remember reading a book by Jack London called "The Iron Heel". It was written in 1905 and describes a fictional oligarchical takeover of the United States. It was a very good read. It was very disturbing to see the parallels to contemporary U.S.A. for the past decades, right down to describing the tactics of the "anarchist black bloc" who serve the oligarchs with their provocateur antics.

I've witnessed the "bloc" tactics personally. I took part in the "world says no to war" demonstration in NYC on February 15, 2003. It was one of over 670 demonstrations in major cities around the world where people turned out by the millions to try to stop the U.S. from invading Iraq. At the NYC demo, some of the "anarchists" were filmed throwing firecrackers at mounted police officers and then disappearing behind the police lines. The police then turned on the peaceably and legally assembled protesters - including several people from my home town among them, the Vice-President of the R.I. Sisters of Mercy, and, using their horses, pushed onto the sidewalks and forced people up against plate glass windows. A little boy was separated from his parents during this encounter. It was very upsetting to see 30 mounted police officers charging this crowd of people.

This is not to say that all people who identify themselves as "anarchists" are actually police provocateurs. However, when the Molotov cocktails start flying and the windows are breaking and trashcans and cars are being turned over and set on fire - it creates a bit of a crisis that is always responded to with an escalation of violence on the part of the police. This always serves the purposes of the police and provides a justification for extra-repressive tactics.

In Genoa, during a G-8 gathering, the Italian police entered into a youth hostel where demonstrators were sleeping and beat them bloody while they were stuck in their sleeping bags. The police were reported to have been singing "Fascist" songs all the while as they kicked young women in their bellies and cracked open people's heads. Most of the media attention revolved around one protester who was killed by the police as he was engaging in an act of property destruction.

There has been a lot of discussion among various individuals and organizations who are concerned about the policies of globalization -about how to engage in meaningful protest over legitimate issues. There are some who feel that the "nonviolence" crowd is completely ineffective and others who feel that embracing the "diversity of tactics" credo has resulted in the escalation of police repression. The media will always find the most disturbing pictures to broadcast further frightening the general population from participating in demonstrations whether they be against globalization or against the war.

Strangely enough, even though there have been threats of violence on the part of some "Tea Party" activists who have demonstrated outside of events where Obama has appeared bearing automatic rifles and signs proclaiming it time to "water the tree of liberty" - I have yet to hear of a single Tea Party demo that has met with heavy police security.

It has become a ritual here in the U.S. to use random arrests, excessive police force, denial of permits, so-called "less lethal" crowd control apparatus - including rubber bullets, water cannons and machines that generate a painful sound frequency to disperse anti war protesters - whether or not they have permits, whether or not they are peaceably assembled. These altercations rarely receive any media coverage here in the United States. When they do, they are slanted to make it appear that the police action was "necessary".

At the Republican National Convention in NY City in 2004, the police set upon permitted marchers, scooping them up with orange nets as if they were fish. People were caught up in those nets who were simply on the street leaving their jobs to go home, transiting from one part of the city to another. People were detained in a municipal garage for up to three days, forced to sleep on the floor where there were chemicals and oil slicks. Some of the innocent spectators were detained without essential medications and others received far more harrassing treatment. Almost all of those who were arrested had their charges dismissed for lack of evidence.

During the Democratic and Republican conventions in 2008, I made a point of reading three separate newspapers to track the coverage of the demonstrations that I knew would be happening. If I had only read the Providence Journal, I would have gone away thinking there had only been one incident of protest at the RNC convention in St. Paul, Minnesota involving approximately 50 people who were breaking windows with some arrests reported. If I read only the NY Times, I would have a somewhat more complete version of events that at least mentioned that there were reporters detained and that some people were arrested.

I was quite surprised to see that the most consistent and thorough coverage was provided by "USA Today", a paper that I had dismissed as "fluff" until that time. USA reported on the National Guard being deployed to use tear gas and water cannons against a permitted and peaceful march led by "Iraq Veterans Against the War". It went further to describe how a rally in a park nearby was surrounded by the police who gave an order to "disperse immediately" to the peaceful crowd who were legally assembled and were listening to speakers and music. Excessive force was used, people were beaten and arrested randomly.

The thing that the Seattle 1999, RNC 2000, Miami (FTAA demo) and RNC 2004 and RNC 2008 demonstrations had in common was the fact that the "security" was organized by the same person, former Miami Police Commissioner, John Timoney.

A friend of mine by the name of Camilo Vivieros was arrested in Philadelphia during the RNC convention in 2000. He was charged with assaulting then Philadelphia Police Chief,John Timoney. Camilo is a very soft spoken, gentle, peaceful young man who has spent much of his life as a community organizer (gasp!) helping elderly citizens to get better health care and housing. Camilo was charged with a felony and sat in prison for quite some months as we raised nearly a half a million dollars for his bail. Camilo was facing 40 years in prison. Several pre-trial conferences occured where Camilo had to travel from Rhode Island to Pennsylvania - at great personal expense - prepared for trial, just to have his case continued to another date. Most of the other folks experiencing this attempt to wear them down by attrition, took plea bargains just to get out of the pre-trial go around. Camilo did not. He pressed his case, defending his rights and record, for nearly four years before his case came to trial.

At Camilo's trial, Timoney described how Camilo had assaulted him with a bicycle and that he was filmed doing so. When the judge ordered the film to be shown, it clearly showed that Camilo had not done any such thing. In fact, the film showed the Pennsylvania police beating Camilo while he had his hands handcuffed behind his back. The judge was outraged and dismissed the charges against Camilo. To my knowledge, there have been no charges brought against Timoney for his allegations that resulted in the false arrest, imprisonment and harrassment of a U.S. citizen exercising his rights to peaceably assemble and redress his grievances.

I have had many friends attacked by police officers. One - John Heid - a Plowshares activist, was kicked in the mouth by a Court Sheriff resulting in John's jaw being broken and the loss of teeth. John had done nothing other than exhort the sheriff to be gentle with some peace activists who had just been convicted and were being roughed up as they were taken out of the courtroom. The Sheriff gave a roundhouse kick with his steel boot landing square in the middle of John's face resulting in a broken jaw and the loss of several teeth. John was charged with assaulting a police officer and to everyone's absolute astonishment was found guilty of this felony and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He served one and was released on probation with the rest of the sentence suspended.

The point I am trying to make here is that we cannot trust media accounts of what happens at these events. We cannot condone the use of repressive and overbroad "security" measures because some wannabe revolutionaries - who may or may not be paid provocateurs - may or may not decide to break a few windows. This police state response - and the media frenzy following - diverts attention away from the policies that emerge from these conferences and serves to intimidate citizens from participating in public demonstrations.

Whether or not you care for Starhawk's politics or spirituality, she has written a very good account of many of these demonstrations in her book, "Webs of Power: Notes from the global uprising". Starhawk was present at many of these world power gatherings in order to conduct non-violence trainings. She has documented a very disturbing pattern of repression. Her essay on "Rethinking Non-violence" is a troubling read for those of us who are committed to non-violence as we engage in the process of discussing and helping to determine the future economic policies of our increasingly "globalized world" and challenging the military strategies that enforce them.

Thank you for your participation in this discussion. I believe that by sharing our own perspectives and experiences, however diverse, we will eventually have a deeper understanding of these events and our own beliefs and responses.

That's all (and quite enough) for now,