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article imagePolice, protesters tangle in Pittsburgh as G20 convenes

By Stephanie Dearing     Sep 24, 2009 in Politics
Students, anarchists, environmentalists and other people with a message for G20 leaders rallied in Pittsburgh today to actively lobby leaders, who are meeting this week in that city. The meeting is to follow up on the April G20.
The dust-ups occurred after the protesters attempted to move from the permitted areas to the restricted downtown Pittsburgh core. The core was sealed off by police yesterday in preparation for anticipated protests.
According to reports, there were 4,000 police officers, 2,000 members of the National Guard and an additional 11 coastguard vessels anchored at the city's piers.
After protesters attempted to march to the city core, the police fired on them with teargas. Some protesters responded by rolling garbage cans onto the street and throwing rocks. Because the protesters did not have a permit, the march was declared illegal by the police, who then made arrests as protesters resisted dispersing.
At least nine people were arrested today, including at least one Greenpeace member. One protester, identified as 22 year old T.J. Amick, told the media:
"We were barely even protesting. Then all of a sudden, they come up and tell us we're gathered illegally and start using force, start banging their shields, start telling us we're going to be arrested and tear gassed. We haven't broken any laws." Another protester who said his name was Bret Hatch said "This is ridiculous. We have constitutional rights to free speech."
Referring to the police action, Joe Kupferman, a member of the National Lawyers Guild, said one of their observers was one of the people arrested. He told press, "It's a sign that they are out of control." The Guild has sent volunteer members to monitor police actions during the summit.
One group, Pittsburgh G20 Resistance Project, has been organizing protest events in Pittsburgh. Today's action was called a People's Uprising, and promoted as "a mass march to disrupt the G-20 summit."
Action is planned for tomorrow to disrupt the businesses that are supplying the G20 with services. The protesters say that they don't want the meetings held behind closed doors. They also want to see their governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create more jobs, spend money on social safety networks and reform the U.S. prison system, among other things.
Protesters had applied for permits earlier this month, but the applications were not processed by the time the summit started today. Non-Americans are also attending Pittsburgh to protest, including people from the country formerly known as Burma.
Earlier this month, a complaint was filed by The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) was heard. The ACLU-PA and CCR were attempting to reinstate the rights of groups to protest, and they had won some rights.
The complaint also asserted that the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Secret Service, the City of Pittsburgh, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources were violating the constitutional rights to free speech of the groups wishing to protest.
The Pittsburgh police were already on edge after unknown vandals put screws and nails into the tires of about a dozen police cars earlier this week.
The protesters broke the windshield of a car, and several shop windows when they fought back against the police Thursday. Downtown businesses took the precaution of boarding up their store windows earlier this week.
There has been no official statement released by the police department or the Mayor of Pittsburgh.
The G20 is expected to discuss proposals for stabilizing the financial sector, job creation, and the new role of the International Montetary Fund among other topics of concern.
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