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Friday, September 25, 2009

Protestors at the Pittsburgh G-20 Are Idiots

I am sitting roughly 20 miles from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, in Pittsburgh, and the members of the G-20. Now, since I live and work in the areas surrounding Pittsburgh I have been bombarded by all the plans for the summit, as well as the security measures. If I wanted to travel downtown, I would have a hard time doing it. Most of the off ramps, from what is called “The Parkway East” and “The Parkway West” as well as other major roads around the city, have been closed and have security, and in some cases a camouflaged Hummer, blocking them. Apparently, that guy couldn’t get credit for his clunker, so they put it to good use. Regardless, my proximity to the event leaves me in a state of information overload when it comes to the news about the summit.

Local stations are covering the event nonstop, at least until they leave. Had the summit gone on through Sunday there would have probably been a break in coverage for the Steelers – Bengals game. Sorry, world leaders, but you come second to us talking about how bad we kicked the snot out of Ocho Cinco. So, without constantly watching CNN or Fox News, I have no idea how much the rest of the country knows about what has been going on or if they care.

Let’s give you a little recap. Protesters have been bitching and moaning about their rights in the weeks leading up to the summit. Primarily, they’ve complained about permits not being issued or change of venues from where they are allowed to march. Point State Park is considered a iconic location associated with downtown Pittsburgh and you know, there is going to be some reservations already made for these spots. Nobody in the protesters’ ranks thought of call ahead seating? They should have checked a site like Priceline or Orbitz.

So, since they can’t be directly in the face of the delegates, they’ve taken to hitting the surrounding areas. In some cases, there have been warnings issued to local business owners that they could be targets for groups. Places like the Gap and Starbucks have been warned that because of they are “big name economic” entities, they are targets. Of course, looking at the list, you have to wonder why Cheerleaders Gentlemen’s Club was included on that list. I guess a couple of guys in the group figured, “Hey why not catch the buffet and afternoon show, then spray paint the outside of the building?”

You have to love the irony of some of this. A lot of the protesters are associated with a group called POG (Pittsburgh Organizing Group) which, by their own admission on their website, is an anarchist group. I don’t know, I kind of thought that anarchy was a lack of organization. Perhaps, when they were coming up with a name they didn’t have a dictionary handy.

Then there was the dry run for testing Pittsburgh’s security response on Tuesday. Three protesters on bikes blocked a tour bus full of International Coal Conference experts, unfurling a sign that said, “It’s time to move beyond coal.” I tip my hat to the young lads on ten speeds who were able to cripple the movement of a giant amphibious truck belonging to a group called Just Ducky tours. Unfortunately, what they didn’t realize is that they had a good chance of turning Market Square into Tienanmen Square. I’ve been behind those trucks as they zip along the roads in downtown Pittsburgh. The sight lines are not optimal for the driver to notice someone standing three feet below the hood.

Then, of course, there was my favorite. Members of Greenpeace decided to make use of Pittsburgh’s biggest feature, the bridges, by hanging off the West End Bridge in an effort to unfurl a banner saying “DANGER: CLIMATE DESTRUCTION AHEAD REDUCE CO2 EMISSIONS NOW” Now, for those of you, not familiar with Pittsburgh, the West End Bridge is about a mile West of the Downtown area of Pittsburgh, hence the name. So, I don’t exactly know who this banner was for because anyone standing at the Point would have not been able to read it because it was facing the opposite direction.

Also, the additional text had to be small enough to fit on the banner making it harder to read from the opposite side. They would have been able to see DANGER…. And then something about…. I don’t know, is that a C or an O. Did they hang an over sized eye chart from the bridge or what? Better here or now? How about now? If they wanted to be more accurate they should have had it facing away from Pittsburgh. That would have meant Ohio was responsible for climate destruction. After all, Cleveland set one of its own rivers on fire, for God’s sake.

Look, I am all for a good cause, just look at my Facebook profile. Although, I’m sure people will quibble over the “I bet I can find a million people who don’t care about Kanye West” as being a worthy cause. Hey, I was trying to clean out my requests. I wish there was just an accept all button on my requests, kind of like what Jim Carrey did as God in Bruce Almighty. Ok, I’m rambling. My point is, that while I support the Bill of Rights, I also support common sense. Does the average protester, who chooses to make a statement at one of these things, really believe that anyone cares what they think? “Protesters, the new Blogger.”

I can only imagine the hard ons these guys get when they think they’re being all clever with their message and execution. “Oh, I’m so eco-conscious and cool.” Um, but what was that banner made out of, hemp? Looked like plastic to me. So, Greenpeace just spent a huge boatload of their donors money on a big ass non biodegradable banner that is surely going to end up in a land fill somewhere. Nice job, d-bags. Way to take care of the planet.

For all the protesting going on, the only thing you’re going to accomplish is adding an arrest to your record. That doesn’t bode well for job hunting. Of course, the groups I’ve seen on television look like they don’t have jobs, unless they are in a Dexy’s Midnight Runners tribute band. If you want to get your message across you’re going to have to come up with something better that stopping a duck tour or doing your Turk 182 impression. This is post 9-11 folks, anything you even attempt to do will get your ass arrested, or worse.

Now, if getting arrested is part of your overall goal for your cause, then by all means protest in a vacuum. I think if you are going to risk jail time to hang a banner during a government event, you ought to at least get their attention. All the hippie messages and hate speak gets drowned out as white noise against all the others. And, let’s face it, Cindy Shehan pretty much ruined protesting for everyone. I empathize with her grief but she gave herself the persona of a pest not a protester. But, I think it would be more productive and thought provoking if you were a bit absurd in your protesting. Think Soy Bomb or “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” Absurd, but memorable. Instead of hanging an eco-conscious banner off the bridge, do something spontaneous and hysterical, like “Dan Onorato is a horrible tipper,” or “Hey G-20, show us your….” Well, you get it.

What The Protestors Should Have Hung
On the West End Bridge

In all, I think there is a bigger problem with people being malicious instead of trying to peacefully protest. It seemed as if these were protesters with nothing to say. They appeared to be marching for the sake of marching with no common message. In that case, you deserve to be dumped on your ass by guys in riot gear. You have to understand, we gather in the streets outside the bars when we win major sports championships. The police kind of just babysit us until we start burning couches and flipping vehicles. This is a major political event, the stakes have been upped a little.

So, it came to pass, that on Thursday afternoon and evening, two unlawful protests broke out around the city, one in Lawrenceville and the other in Oakland. They are being considered unlawful in that they did not have a permit. Frankly, I don’t understand the laws there. I thought that’s what a protest march was. The one in Lawrenceville also sported people dressed in black clothing and wearing gas masks and hoods; another no, no. Hey, come on folks, if you are going to protest and make a statement, don’t hide your face. The gas masks alone made it illegal as it deters the police’s ability to control the crowd if it got out of hand. And it did get out of hand.

Windows were broken, ATM’s were trashed. They broke a bunch of windows in a Boston Market. Now, there’s your symbol of corporate greed right there, a rotisserie chicken place. In Oakland last night, LRAD devices were used to try and push back the protesters. LRAD stands for Long Range Acoustic Device. It’s a sort of annoying high pitched repetitive sound that is supposed to be unbearable and forces you to move away from it. It sounds like a car alarm.

Unfortunately, what police fail to understand is that people in Oakland are used to that kind of noise. For four and a half years I lived on the third floor of the Litchfield Towers Dormitories, which is a block away from where the major problems were. In that time, I listened to car alarms going off all night, helicopters landing on the hospital roof a block away, and the sound of thousands of beer bottles being broken as they were poured into the metal dumpster right outside my window.

As we push forward into Friday, things have been deemed rather mild in comparison to other countries that have this sort of ridiculousness. Pittsburgh is far from being like Iran or Afghanistan in its protests. We aren’t exactly seasoned veterans at this kind of stuff. Like I said, we burn couches in the street when we win the Stanley Cup and the Super Bowl, so our priorities are a little off when it comes to expressing our feelings. What people need to realize is that Pittsburgh is somewhat removed from the rest of the area. Yeah, we have bridges and tunnels that lead into the city, but for the most part, you have to either go over water or underground to get into the heart of downtown and that allows for a moderate amount of control when it comes to keeping the place secure. There are routes around these bridges and tunnels, but it’s not a major road that gets you there. There’s a lot of landscape to cover in dense urban areas.

If you think about it, if there are any major issues, the three trauma facilities in the area are not in the city proper. They are either on the North Side, across the Allegheny River, or in Oakland at the edge of the city. For anyone who has played Fallout 3 or seen Land of the Dead, you know how much of a corner you’re backed into if you get stuck on the wrong end of a crisis in downtown.

While I’m glad that Pittsburgh is getting a lot of exposure thanks to this Presidency, it sucks that we as a city can’t take part in the glamour that comes with a major lens focused on our city. A lot of the shots of the area show empty streets and boarded up businesses. It kind of sucks, that, as a city that has experienced a major rebirth in terms of economy and infrastructure, we aren’t getting to showcase the best part of this whole renaissance, the people. Instead, we get these idiots doing what idiots do best.

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