G20 Report Back
We just got back from Pittsburgh after traveling across the state, connecting personally with some local struggles and participating in exciting actions and protests against our global ruling elite's neoliberal agenda. Despite a veritable police state in Pittsburgh, the time was inspiring and rewarding enough we felt we should send out this report back to those who couldn't make it. We also temporarily lost a caravaner who was wrongfully arrested while filming some of the police repression in the streets, so we're combining this with an urgent appeal for funds for his release!
The People's Caravan:
more info on the caravan: http://g20caravan.info/node/7
The G-20 summit is a gathering of financial ministers and heads of states of the 20 richest countries in the world. They are held an exclusive meeting in Pittsburgh, September 24-25 to advance their agenda: cutting essential social services, privatizing schools, healthcare, and social security, and promoting “free-trade,” which cuts labor and environmental standards across the globe and places corporate profit above human needs.
Pennsylvania, along with the rest of the world, is in crisis. Many people do not have access to decent housing, education, healthcare, jobs, healthy food, transportation and communication. While we are told that there are not resources to provide for our basic needs, bankers and the ultra-rich get trillions of dollars in bail-out funding, and our services are cut and costly wars are waged. From pools, libraries and health centers in urban areas closing, to factory lay-offs and families losing their farms, Pennsylvanians are feeling the impact of an economic and political system that has placed profit over people. We will not pay for their crisis!
We did not want to simply protest the G-20, we wanted to use this opportunity to focus on Pennsylvania, and strengthen our statewide networks in the hopes of strengthening our movements. We met up with people who are organizing locally for their dignity, a better Pennsylvania and a better world. Here is the report-back from our journey.
Livin in a Police State:
While thousands marched in Pittsburgh- to demand an end to the G-20 agenda of neoliberal tyranny- our voices were also drowned out by a military weapon that the Police deployed on the protesters called the LRAD, or Long-Range Acoustic Device. Thousands of Riot Police, coming from numerous states, as well as the National Guard repressed protesters using tear-gas, pepper spray, snatch squads, rubber bullets, batons, and the LRAD- which can cause permanent damage to hearing. For those who thought that policing under Obama may be less repressive, the state mobilized its full force to repress peaceful dissent. Among the many chants that called for a new economic system the change, "Tell me what a police state looks like...this is what a police state looks like" could be heard throughout the streets.
Here is a link to very disturbing footage of a protester being forced into a car by military personnel:
To see more coverage of the G-20, check out Pittsburgh indymedia's coverage:
From Philly to Pittsburgh, poor people across PA are being forced out of their homes and communities. We stopped at a trailer park and listened to moving stories of residents whose homes are being bought at a fraction of their worth to clear the land for developers to come in and build more profitable town houses. The Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign has spent the last months working with organizers there to fight their eviction and support those who are trying to stay. A PPEHRC organizer on the caravan made the connection and we delivered some food from Philly as a token of solidarity.
The People's Caravan rallied on the Capitol steps to share stories of Pennsylvanians organizing in the face of the economic crisis. We demanded a state budget that supports social services and meets people's basic needs. Kensington Welfare Rights Union, the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, Students for a Democratic Society and Casino Free Philly all represented, speaking out about their own struggles and the budget.
See a writeup in the Harrisburgh Patriot News here
Next up on our tour were some gutsy rural organizers fighting against the devastation of the area's water by coal companies. Pollution caused by abandoned coal mines had killed a number of rivers and poisoned water sources in the area with heavy levels of iron and aluminum, affecting an area whose population is already struggling with poverty.The Mountain Watershed Association who we visited, fought a number of succesful battles against new coal mining projects, and together with the EPA led the creation of a constructed wetland to clean the polluted runoff, effectively giving new birth to streams which had for years seen no signs of life. Beverly, a local MWA organizer took us on a tour of a constructed wetland, used to clean mine-poisoned water, one of the group's organizing victories.
ACT UP shows up early
On Tuesday, September 22nd at 6 am over 20 Philadelphians ventured ahead of the caravan to Pittsburgh on a six hour bus ride to join others from DC, New York, and Pittsburgh to protest the G-20. Organized by ACT UP Philadelphia in conjunction with other organizations, a funeral procession was held in which over 100 AIDS activists dressed in black demanded attention to global HIV/AIDS issues. The protest was high energy, protesters had solid messaging, and the speakers were strong. Police kept their distance and we got lots of press coverage.
Bail Out the People Tent City
From Sunday, September 20 to Friday, September 25 poor people's o``rganizations from throughout the country joined the "Bail Out the People "tent city, held at the Baptist Monumental Church in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. In the face of foreclosures, evictions, unemployment and lack of housing and healthcare, Bail out the People held a march for jobs and participated in a wide variety of forums, marches and protests at the G-20 Summit. The People's Caravan joined the tent city in the demands for economic human rights for all- and spent one evening camping out and joining the many grassroots and poor peoples' organizations.
Hear a caravaner break down systemic inequality on Free Speech Radio News!
Thursday Mass March on the G-20 Summit: The People’s Uprising!
Thursday, a number of our crew took part in an unpermitted march to the G20 meetings. The crowd of roughly 1000 started off in Arsenal park in high spirits despite an intimidating police presence. The short time our rowdy procession actually resembled a march we were a creative and colorful defiance to the quickly emerging police state forming in Pittsburgh. When our march reached police lines apparently unwilling to let us pass, it took sonic weapons and teargas to move us. The rest of the day police chased protesters through Pittsburgh neighborhoods, with liberal use of teargas, but relatively few arrests. Most of the caravaners wrapped it up early, tired of getting lost in Pittsburgh's labyrinth of hills and police. Undeterred and often combative, protesters regrouped several times well into the night standing up to the police violence and taking out bank and corporate windows as frustration with the police occupation grew. Already exhausted, we followed the action from the comfort of our base glued to the radio and following twitter updates from the streets.
Friday's People's March
On Friday, September 25, about 5,000 protestors assembled in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh to join the People's March and heard speakers from a diverse group of organizations ranging from student, labor, environmental and peace to human and economic rights before marching to downtown and across the Allegheny River. We participated in full as the People's Caravan contingent, marching with multi-color banners, matching teeshirts and NEW chants!
Two members of our caravan were wrongfully arrested while filming some of the police repression in the streets on Friday. During the arrest, they were violently assaulted by the police. While one of them has been released and is doing okay, the other needs medical attention for a possible broken nose and has bail set at $15000. Also he was just refused a bail reduction and denied bond, meaning we need to raise the entire amount to get him out. A crew from Philly is in Pittsburgh as I write this trying to get him out.
We're asking that folks pay what they can so that we can pool money for his release! We're also looking for longer term loans until his court dates are wrapped up.
Invitation to Report-back:
Wanna learn more about the People's Caravan, the G-20, and how local groups are fighting for economic and social justice in Philadelphia? Please SAVE the DATE: Sunday, October 18, 7pm at the Calvary Center, 48th & Baltimore, West Philly.