What Fresh Hell Is This?

March 19, 2006

Overkill at the Antiwar Rally/March?

As reported here, Pittsburgh held a rally and march to mark the third anniversary of the Iraq War. The main sponsor was the Thomas Merton Center which has received national attention recently when proof was offered demonstrating that the FBI had been spying on this pacifist group.

I and the Other Political Junkie attended the rally but not the march, but I didn't bring a camera (I was toting some largest posters for Democracy for Pittsburgh).

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette covers the march here and Pittsburgh Indymedia covers it here with LOTS of pictures including these two:

But the most interesting coverage may be a Recommended Diary at Daily KOS by Yellow Canary here.

Like, I said, I didn't do the march, but Yellow Canary did and took loads of photos, including these two:

The photos illustrate the point Yellow Canary makes in his diary:
Not so bad. Then I got the crowd itself. A nice drumbeat was being tattoo'd by an active group in the center, but mostly people were just milling around. Not the police. They had formed an impenetrable cordon. And I'm not kidding. The crowd was dressed in jeans, sweaters, jackets. It was a cold, sunny day. These police were in FULL RIOT GEAR.

That's a block-long line of police in full riot gear. High-tech stuff: shields, shin, knee, elbow, shoulder protectors, pads everywhere. About every eighth officer had an earset with a microphone. Notice that the crowd is not particularly menacing.


Did you notice the arms? This was a significant show of force for the police state.

He wasn't unfriendly. Told me the gun fired "non-lethal crowd control rounds". That leaves, well, most everything.

I didn't get any pictures of the "greens". They were a team of riot police staying out of the way half a block to the north. They ALL had those nice canister launchers, and one guy -- luck of draw, he was the munitions mule -- was wearing a long vest covered front, back, and sides with five inch by two inch aluminum canisters.

That's a lot of cops, probably on overtime. Pittsburgh, by the way, is in receivership (it can't pay it's bills). But it sure can pull out all stops to keep an anti-war rally from turning ugly. The city of Pittsburgh has contributed more than $950,000,000 in federal taxes for Bush's illegal war of aggression in Iraq. We sure could use that money to pay for the schools (property taxes are forcing people out of the city). Or invest in the local economy. Paying Bush to kill Iraqis when you can't afford to pay your bills seems a misguided. But then we pay extra to show peace marchers the newest in police equipment.
As one person commented after viewing the pictures:

nonlethal crowd control rounds like the one that killed the young lady celebrating in Kenmore Square after the Red Sox won the Series? These pictures are straight out of V for Vendetta. The police are up-armed for tactical assault at the mere presence of peaceful citizens exercising their constitutional rights. We need to stop this. We cannot have local police rigged out as storm troopers. They will act like what they are dressed out to do. What in the hell happened to my country? Who are these police that stand ready to kill and maim with lethal non-lethal rounds in peaceful gatherings? Woe is this nation, woe, and in peril.
What is missing from the above diary is any mention of the incident that happened at the same recruiting station back in August 2005 when tasers, dogs, and chemical weapons were used to subdue protesters. In that protest, six were arrested, two hospitalized, and many were injured including a grandmother who was bitten by a police dog. However, that protest was organized by POG, not the Merton Center.

Pittsburgh City Council held a Post Agenda hearing on the incident, the police response, and the guidelines for use of force.

At the time, Chief Robert W. McNeilly, Jr., when asked and how much force should be used during group protests "declined to release those policies, saying sophisticated anarchist groups might use them against police."

We seem to have gone from perhaps too few police who seemed overeager (felt threatened?) and ill-equipped to handle a situation to something that resembles a phalanx of troopers out of Star Wars.


But, by all means, go to Daily KOS and Pittsburgh Indymedia and make up your own mind.


Ol' Froth said...

Better to prepare, and not need to do anything, than not prepare, and have to scramble. That said, I cant recall a single time that the TMC has caused any problems

Braden said...

Uhmm, Tose who organized the protest also stated that they were prepared to do some "civil disobedience," perhaps that why the "overkill." I think Maria was downright disappointed that the cops were prepared for whatever turn of events these "peace" activists were going to do, even when they stated intentions containing acts of civil disobedience. Why, how dare the police be prepared. How dare they! Oh, woe is me! Jeeze.

Ol' Froth said...

CIvil disobedience doesn't necessarily include violence. Peaceful acts of civil disobedience were practiced by everyone from Ghandi to MLK. Blocking the doors of a building with the expectation that you will be arrested is a peaceful act of concious.

I'm perplexed that you would associate a peaceful demonsration and acts of civil disobedience automtically implies violence.

pghlesbian said...

As with most situations, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Pittsburgh is not a police state and the protestors are not 100% nonviolent. The August POG protest is consistently painted as a one-sided police overreaction with few references to the incident in which a protestor did break the law by hitting a cameraman. The big picture is important, but I always wonder if that young man ever took responsibility for his actions. I'm not laying the entire blame at his feet, but it seems this discussion frequently overlooks a sense of personal accountability. Cindy Sheehan didn't run and hide when the police arrested her.

I know this will not be a popular position. I am a member of TMC and believe it brings value to our community.

Braden said...

Definition of civil disobedience: "Refusal to obey civil laws in an effort to induce change in governmental policy or legislation, characterized by the use of passive resistance or other nonviolent means."

That being said, that's like saying someone did not murder someone, but sold drugs which resulted in someone overdosing and dying, isn't breaking the law.

I personally saw one of the peaceful protests which was staged outside of the recruitment center on Forbes Avenue. It didn't look so peaceful to me, especially when the way was blocked for those going in and out of the facility (My only regret is I did not have my camera with me). Still peaceful? Well, if you define peaceful as no violence then sure. Fine line, no?

All that being said, I'm willing to place bets that Maria was a bit p.o.'d that the police were "ready." I say "good." They should be ready, it's their job. The police are damned if they do, and damned if they don't. "Why?" you ask. Because if violence did break out during one of these "peaceful" protests and the police weren't prepared, it would be their fault...and Maria knows she'd be the first to point fingers if that situation presented itself. Liberals...can't please em....ever.

Maria said...

I think (hope?) that we are all in agreement that the Merton Center people are not the problem. The Merton Center members do not feel the need to hide their faces behind scarfs. I certainly believe that if something is worthwhile to protest, it is worth showing your face.

Even if you come planning to do civil disobedience, you should be willing to show your face. And, let me add that as this was a PERMITTED rally/march, the Merton Center was not actually promoting civil disobedience.

I also agree that because of past actions of both the anarchists and the police, there certainly need to be a good, prepared police presence.

However, if I had continued with the march and arrived in Oakland to see the presence that was there, I would have felt intimidated. I would have felt that I was meant to feel intimated -- not just intimidated from causing violence (which I have no desire to do) -- but, intimated for just being there.

Braden said...

Feel intimidated? LOL.

You mean the police have to be "sensitive?" Oh man.

o/`` Feelings...nothing more than feelings....o/``

Maria said...

If people have a permit for a march -- which they did in this case -- the ideal would be that both they and the neighboorhood should feel secure and not intimidated.

Pghlesbian said...

The point about feeling intimidated is well made. The chilling effect on lawful public protest is something we should heed.