G-20: A Report from Pittsburgh

An update from Steel City as the first presentations and protests get underway.

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It’s typical journalistic discussion (what’s worth editing? What’s worth keeping?), but this week, as the City of Pittsburgh — and local police — attempt to toe that apparently delicate line between “keeping the peace” and “brutalizing people for no reason whatsoever,” it’s very pertinent. In honor/horror of G20, a ton of valid ideas and opinions are being dispersed en masse. And, from the street, it’s going to be very difficult distinguishing one idea from another, particularly when most organizers take identical approaches to disseminating opinions.

For example: I work downtown and heard a rally yesterday commencing at Grant and Liberty around 2 p.m. A friend and I dropped by to check it out. The protest’s leaders called for $50 billion to be distributed internationally from the U.S. to people with AIDS. And as we walked (marched?), another group assembled across the street to protest a housing issue. Nearby, they were protesting healthcare reform. And undoubtedly there were others. These rallies were noted in Pittsburgh’s oldest and most widely-read newspaper (where I freelance from time to time), but in a way that only served to further confuse who’s marching with whom and what ideas they’re hoping to get across.

The amount of space Pittsburgh’s mainstream media is willing to devote to protested issues during G20 is limited, so they end up doing what they do in the aforementioned story: mash together pleas for healthcare reform, medicinal funding for AIDS patients, cries against so-called “clean coal” and “mountaintop removal” as well as the travel schedules of people busing in from Philadelphia. And they do this in 500 words. As a colleague said during the march yesterday: “You end up praying for broken windows.” In other words, the only way to get an an issue noticed is by fueling — or being fueled by — a clash. Exhibit A is the Seeds of Peace fiasco I noted on Tuesday. Today it’s getting even more coverage. Problem is, Seeds of Peace doesn’t even highlight a specific issue; they’re just here to hand out free food to activists and people who want it. So we’re left discussing — over and over again — how messed up the security situation is, how clueless the police appear to be, and how vehement the City appears to be against dissenters.

Which maybe is the point: Cut off the dissenters’ free food supply (so they’ll be forced to participate in the capitalist market), distract the conversation (so nothing substantial gets discussed), and then head over to Primanti’s for a sammich and a Ahrn City Beer.

Hopefully the rest of the week won’t pan out so predictably.

* For more on protests and dissent, check out G20 Bed and Breakfast, Mobile Broadcast News, and Pittsburgh IndyMedia.


On the eve of the G-20 summit, a native son finds a city moving toward the future but longing for its past (WSJ)

Conservatives chime in on global money ills in G-20 precursor (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

For G-20 Summit, Old Issues Give Way to New (WaPo)

“Healthcare, housing, jobs, food, clean water are basic human rights,” says Cindy Sheehan in downtown Pittsburgh yesterday. “Not just rich, white, Christian Americans.” (G20 B&B)

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Tags: affordable housingphiladelphiagovernancepittsburghprotests

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