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News :: Globalization
G20 UPDATE: Oakland is on Fire -- Just Another Thursday Night in Pittsburgh
29 Sep 2009
An eyewitness account of the riots in Oakland last night at the G20.
Part Two by skadi

Oakland is on Fire -- Just Another Thursday Night in Pittsburgh

Amidst the dreams I awoke to this morning of dark clad figures raging war on corporate perpetrators and their rats during the night, there is a lot to think about in terms of what occurred yesterday in conjunction to the meeting of the twenty global leaders of the world.

“I think you just saved our town from changing,” said one white guy at the bar -- speaking directly in response to what happened Thursday night in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh. “I was stand-offish to you at first, thinking that you and everyone else coming into town were going to change the industrial collapse that has made this community one of the best and cheapest places to live in the country”. Being witness to what happened in and around the northwest side of Pittsburgh and on the University campus; it seems that the anarchists (particularly the queer ones) and the college kids sent a pretty good message about their distaste in the corporate green agenda the G20 is trying to foster here in Pittsburgh. However, it’s hard to say exactly how the anarchist tactics played out yesterday.

In terms of eluding the police, the neighborhoods in and around Arsenal Park proved to be conducive to the thousand(s) of demonstrators that showed up for the “Peoples Uprising” march during the day. However, the lack of onlooker support from the neighbors brings up questions as to what kind of community support they were trying to create. “All of these white kids…they’re crazy,” said one man witnessing the tear gassing and “rioting” of the protesters on Baum Boulevard and Cypress Avenue. Another man was heard commenting, “Why are they protesting here, they are sending tear gas into the neighborhood”. Regardless or not if the neighborhood arena was the best place for the black bloc to throw a dumpster down the hill towards a line of riot police resulting in various detonations of tear gas, folks still found themselves in the realm of success. Corporate monstrosities like Boston Market, BMW car dealership, KFC, PNC Bank, Citizens Bank, Fidelity Bank and more that I’m still probably unaware of took numerous beatings from our black clad comrades. Only 23 arrests were actually accounted for by late afternoon.

Another interesting event that took place during this march was the role of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). I found myself more than once on the sidewalk alongside the ACLU legal observers in their orange hats. When the police showed up to corral people in with riot gear and canines (unsuccessfully) I heard ACLU observers comment, “Oh thank god they are here”. Shortly thereafter, three legal observers were standing on the corner with cameras recording a group of folks changing out of their clothes. It seems as if the militarized functioning of surveillance has spread to the realm of our legal observers. This has some interesting implications as to what type of work needs to be done to bridge the gaps across a diversity of tactics. Despite the disheartening fact of legal folks putting our friends into the dangerous hands of the law, people managed to remain standing for the night ahead.

After a short break in the form of a radical cabaret close to the University of Pittsburgh campus, Bash Back! contingents and their supporters donned their pink bandanas, glitter and banners and literally hit the town. What I thought was going to be a theatrical march quickly turned into a large band of roaming queers dawned in black. In the back of the march, I began to hear what I originally thought were rubber bullets being shot into the front of the crowd. However, the police had not yet responded to this quickly moving group – the sounds that I had been hearing were actually windows shattering. One after the other – the banks, the corporate chains, the police station, the University of Pittsburgh store were hit by various found objects, U-locks, rocks and wrenches. Bash Back! quickly disbanded – not before setting a dumpster on fire – as the very long line of riot police began to move in on them and the thousands of college kids that were on the Pittsburgh University campus wearing togas, team jerseys and high heels. As the police moved closer to the congregation of protesters and college-goers alike, smoke bombs, pepper spray and police brutality began to show their faces on the well to do tuition payers lining the University lawns.
What seemed like just another Thursday night of fun, turned into a militarized police state that caused the entire police force – literally all available units, according to a police scanner - to occupy the neighborhood of Oakland.
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