Two Ohio State seniors were among thousands last week who protested at the Group of 20 Summit in Pittsburgh.
But while they spent Thursday and Friday serving food to protestors and walking in a permitted march, their experience at the summit was less than peaceful.
“Because of the police, people were too afraid to do anything,” said Lindsey Gibson, a fourth year in sociology. “It was like living in an occupied country for two days.”
Gibson said those at the protest spoke out about many different topics, including the economic crisis, different environmental problems, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as capitalism and free markets in general.
“It’s only 20 people, representing the richest countries in the world, and they shouldn’t be the only ones making decisions on the future of the entire world economy,” Gibson said. “The American people don’t even get a say, and many other nations don’t get a say. Only 20 nations out of the entire world get to say what happens.”
Megan Zakany, a fourth year in women’s studies, said many different illegal marches went on throughout the week with only one police-sanctioned march on Friday.
“We could see the convention center, but that’s as close as we were ever going to get to it during the march,” Gibson said. “Cops lined the whole march, so you couldn’t really break off from the area to get food or water, or go to the bathroom.”
Zakany said she couldn’t imagine how much money was spent on riot gear for the police during those two days. She said police were called in from different states as well.
Gibson said it was obvious that a lot of the vehicles the police used were rented because police rode in Budget vans or even in school buses.
Zakany and Gibson both said tear gas and rubber bullets were used on protestors during the marches. Also, according to The Huffington Post, “Pittsburgh police on Thursday used an audio cannon to disperse protesters outside the G-20 Summit — the first time [the] LRAD series device has been used on civilians in the U.S.”
One of the more poignant protests was a protest last Thursday night that ended up going near the University of Pittsburgh campus at the Schenley Plaza in Oakland.
“The problem with what happened,” Zakany said, “is that the protestors understood the seriousness of what cops can do, and most students didn’t understand, but most students still ran outside to try and understand what was happening.”
According to KentNewsNet.com, “after 10 p.m. the crowd was told through a speaker that they were now unlawfully gathered and must leave immediately or risk being arrested… Police vehicles filled the streets and OC gas [pepper spray] was launched to disperse the crowd.”
“A lot of students got tear-gassed, and usually even if it’s within a mile, you can feel the burn,” Gibson said. “The students weren’t ready whatsoever, and they had no idea the amount of force and control the police could have over them.”
According to The Pitt News, “Pitt police Chief Tim Delaney estimated that more than 100 people were arrested following a G-20-related protest in Oakland.”
Gibson said that she can’t fully convey just how many police were present in Pittsburgh for the protests.
“The first day we crossed the bridge after serving food, an unpermitted march was going on and families were trying to cross the street to go to work or go get food from the store,” Zakany said. “We watched one family with kids who couldn’t even cross because there were riot cops who didn’t even have any intention of letting anyone pass.”
Gibson said the protestors’ ultimate goal is always to prevent the convention from happening, but unless protestors think of new tactics that is unlikely.
“I’m glad there were people there, but 20,000 people or so — that’s not even half of the people who go to this sc
hool,” Gibson said. “It didn’t feel like we were in a free country; it felt like we were in an occupied country where we had to ask and get permission to march. I guess I just want people to really analyze the country we live in before they say we live in a completely free country.”