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Monday, September 28, 2009

Adventures in Pitt

I hit the ground running in Pittsburgh at 5:30pm as soon as I got there. I had pre-registered for the Bail Out the People tent city and completely forgot about it. I grabbed a map and checked my email from my phone for addresses. I got a general idea of where things were and started driving before it got too late. As I approached the city I saw police cars sitting on every freeway with their lights flashing. It looked as if I was entering a city after a nuclear bomb detonated. The first on-ramps I approached were blocked off by military hummers. I went in a different direction and eventually took the closest off-ramp to the area I was trying to get to. The area looked a little seedy but nothing I couldn't handle. After jail, everything else seems less intimidating.

I drove past an old school cathedral/church decorated with gargoyles. There was a younger looking group of people outside so I figured I'd find a place to park and ask if anyone knew about where any of the actions were going down. My main priority was to meet up with some people and find a place to sleep for the night.

The inside of the church was beautiful and the surrounding houses were a huge change from perfectly groomed landscape of Orange County. The architecture had character and the new england vibe permeated the air. It was drizzling and very moist outside so I walked briskly to the church and immediatley engaged in a conversation. We were motioned to come in and I cautiously approached. I had no idea about what was being presented and if it had anything to do with the G20. I asked a few more questions and told people I had just flown in from Southern California. It was a Peoples Tribunal for the G20. There was a panel of judges and there were about 12 speakers giving their testimonies and presenting their cases against the members of the G20. There were speakers from everywhere, from rights for immigrant workers, atrocities in the congo, womens rights to south american farms. It was eye opening, informative and enlightening. It was an amazing way to set the premise for the trip.

Throughout the presentation, I heard ambulances go by and thanks to twitter, I kept an eye on the updates of various "unlawful" protests that were getting shut down and dispersed by the riot police around the city by tear gas among other things. Hearing the testimonies gave me a sense of community with all the other groups who were distraught with the lack of humanity in the actions going around the world. A lot of the information was things I was fairly familiar with already but other things were news to me.

After the presentation I conversed with some people that had come out from the east coast and I made some new friends and exchanged numbers. They had arranged for a place to stay already so I decided to dial into the tent city.

After driving all over the city in the rain, I finally found the tent city about 10:30 and parked. I spoke to someone out in front and secured my spot on the street and got the updates on the big march the next day. I slept in my car and tried to get some rest but the evening temperature dropped dramatically.

The next day they started breaking the tent city down and I got to really get a feel for what was about to happen and who was involved. I made some new friends there and traveled with them to the University where we were going to hear a seminar given by some latino leaders about the summit. We ended up hearing a rally led by Veterans Against The War which was extremely moving. Its a very different perspective hearing from the people who were involved in the war than those who simply opposed the war. You know that these soldiers have respect for their fellow troops, they just finally realized how they were being used as pawns to further a corporate agenda and decided to step away from the two faced lawlessness of the leaders of our US military. In '01 Rumsfeld announced the US military couldn't account for 2.3 TRILLION. Thats enough to give EVERY man, woman and child in the US $6,000. When a 3rd of the homeless in the US are vets, its easy to see the lack of respect for the lives taken in the name of patriotism. As the rally commenced, the anarchy kids mobbed up and patiently waited until the Vets were done speaking. Riot police surrounded the area in drones and perched the steps of the Memorial for Veterans where the rally was being held. They waited then climbed on the grass and statues and began hula hooping while yelling a humorous chant about hooping instead of policing. The group I was with deliberated and decided to chase down the anarchists because they figured something "fun" would happen. I joined but due to still being on probation I was apprehensive about being associated with them at all.

After an uneventful morning other than hearing the amazing testimonies from the troops we returnd to the Bail Out the People camp so that I could get my car and position it strategically for the march so that it would be close at the ending rally.

We met up on the corner of Craft and Liberty I think. It was quite an experience and I was so glad to be part of it. It was an exhilerating feeling to stand with a people with a legit cause and await other organizations to convene with. A police fleet drove down the street dispersing traffic as the mob of thousands of protestors approached and we melded in withe them. Soon there were people covering every part of the street as far as I could see in every direction. Every place we approached there were hundreds of riot police lining the sidewalks with police lines blocking off the sidewalk for people not involved in the march to still walk. We marched and we marched with a plethora of different chants as thousands of people climbed on buildings and parking structures to take pictures of the mob. The first rally opened into a wide space in front of what looked like city hall or a courthouse. Many speeches were given and music was played out of a loud PA system to the 8000 protestors. The police hovered around us like storm troopers in Star Wars. After about an hour we proceeded across the bridge and stood facing the convention center. There were hundreds of people out on the balcony at the convention center, most likely employees. I'm sure no one important was out in the open and in danger. These are the most important financeers in the world. The march ended in a park where I immediately went to my car for water then stood and watched the the more speeches and music. They had a food table and fed the protestors vegetarian cuisine. I made some friends at the park and handed out some cd's to some brothers I had met that owned a studio in downtown Pittsburgh.

I loved the experience and being part of the movement. I got to see first hand the events that would later be portrayed in the media as "anarchist kids burning trash cans." I observe a frustration within myself when I see the coverage of this event with no regard to what any of the issues actually were. Glenn Becks Tea Bagger march was rallied by Fox news to look like an amazing show of unity between intelligent people. This video shows some of the most ignorant and jaded humans I have ever seen at that march and Glenn Beck had to come up with a ridiculous number to bloviate over . Of course the only the chaos was represented by the major news networks. I'm beginning to see first hand what kind of propaganda america sees. Not to say these things didn't happen, but they were just focused on as THE movement. I've noticed the majority of the videos taken have the anarchists or people with masks covering their faces as if to portray that everyone there was ready for a fight or tear gas. There was an organization called the Raging Grannies. Where was their coverage about their issues? Another group that I was moved by was the womens rights movements. The statistics I heard were enraging and I can't believe how so many women are so passive about their role in society and don't take a stand but I guess thats the reality for right now. Over 50% of the entire worlds food supply is supplied and harvested by women yet they own less than 2% of the worlds land! During the health care reform conferences I see ignorant white males trying to cut maternity benefits because they think it has nothing to do with them. Stupid stupid stupid.

Over all the experience was amazing not to mention the amazing man I met up with who is a friend of a friend. He owns an art museum in Pitt and has some of the most remarkable pieces I've had the honor of ever seeing. Anything from original Shultz cartoons, John Lennon water color paintings, original Picasso's, Dracula's ring to original Hitler documents. INSANE. I learned alot and made some good new friends. I look forward to standing with some new friends against capitalism and globalization. More and more news stories are surfacing about the wrong doings and excessive force of the riot police on those summit days. I'm glad I was part of it and saw first hand the chaos and anger.