Monday, September 21, 2009

Ahead of G-20, Protesters Call for New Jobs

SEPTEMBER 20, 2009, 7:05 P.M. ET

Ahead of G-20, Protesters Call for New Jobs


PITTSBURGH -- A relatively small and peaceful group of about 500 protesters, most demanding new jobs programs, marched through city streets in the first full day of demonstrations targeting the Group of 20 economic summit later this week.

The turnout was less than the 1,500 expected, and some protest groups blamed the city delays in issuing permits and the promised threefold expansion in the city's police force for the small turnout. Protestors were also critical of comments made by President Barack Obama in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, downplaying the effectiveness of mass protest on abstract issues such as global capitalism.

"You have revealed the real Obama!" Clarence Thomas, a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union told the crowd. He said the president's remarks were "very, very disrespectful" to the civil rights and other social movements.

Mr. Thomas blamed the small turnout of the march, organized by a New York-based group called Bailout the People, on comments by the city about the possibility of violence during protests and delays at issuing permits for demonstrations.

There were no incidents or clashes between about 500 marchers and several dozen police who stood by the side of the road or rode bicycles and photographed and videotaped marchers. The city's police force of 900 is expected to grow to about 4,000, including state troopers and National Guard.

"It shows we can march peacefully against the G20," said Pete Shell, co-director of the anti-war committee of the Thomas Merton Center. The group is organizing what is expected to be the week's biggest mass demonstration, a march on Friday that organizers say could attract 7,000 people. Most of the groups represented on Sunday have applied for city permits and are pledging to use nonviolent means to get their messages across: marches, street theatre, panel discussions, teach-ins and workshops.

Although the event was without major incident, most protestors are expected to arrive later this week, when the G-20 representatives arrive. In London, an estimated 35,000 people demonstrated, with some clashing with police and resulting in hundreds of arrests and one death.

Activists have been communicating on the Web via sites like Facebook and groups plan to coordinate members throughout the day using Twitter messages to tell people where to protest and update people with arrest information and other details.

The G20 Resistance Project plans an unpermitted march -- called a "Peoples Uprising" -- on Thursday toward the summit meeting.

"The G-20 is in the house, throwing a party. Let's crash it," the group says on its Web site, which lists 100 venues around the city for coordinated actions are scheduled to end at 11:30 am Friday, including numerous Starbucks coffee shops, military recruiting centers, banks and other retail chains. "We encourage people to form affinity groups with those that they know and trust, to have a familiar faces to stick with in the streets and people to organize and take action with," the group says on its Web site.

Security preparation for the summit has been "the largest full scale event where we have had to interface numerous local, state and federal agencies, vendors and other law enforcement and non-law enforcement resources from across the country," said Diane Richard, a spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Police Bureau. She declined to provide any specifics on the city's security planning or whether the police are monitoring activities of particular groups. "We are monitoring any and all activity," she said.

Meanwhile, many companies, including U.S. Steel Corp., which has 1,000 employees downtown, PNC Financial Services, which has several thousand and Alcoa Inc. with about 900 near downtown, are telling employees to work from home or from alternate locations outside the city. A spokesman for PNC said it will have just one of its six downtown branches open during the summit. At least one downtown bank has boarded up its windows. "We're going to treat Wednesday, Thursday and Friday essentially as snow days," said Kevin Lowery, a spokesman for Alcoa.

Write to Kris Maher at

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