What Fresh Hell Is This?

September 28, 2009

Questions and comments on the use of force by Pittsburgh Police around the G-20 Summit

1. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano named the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh a "National Special Security Event" (NSSE). What were the parameters of this event? When did it officially end? Did the event only extend to the secured areas around the convention center or did it include the Oakland neighborhood and the rest of Pittsburgh?

2. The City of Pittsburgh availed itself of thousands of non Pittsburgh Police, state police, National Guard and the Coast Guard. Exactly when did their employment by the City end?

3. The City of Pittsburgh used a Long Range Acoustic Device (know as a sound cannon) at last week's G20 protests ("the first time the sound cannon had been used publicly" or should that be against the public --US citizens on US soil). Did we purchase this device or was it rented? Who covers the cost of this new weaponry and will it be available to Pittsburgh Police in the future?

4. Does the City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Police have a policy in place regarding when such weaponry as rubber bullets and sound cannons can be used? For example, if an officer tells me that I'm loitering and I don't move fast enough, can the officer shoot me with rubber bullets before arresting me?

5. The Pittsburgh Police issued a release regarding their activities on Friday evening in Oakland stating:

Further information was received throughout the day that individuals were purchasing numerous BIC lighters and asking if lighter fluid could be purchased. There is nothing to link the purchase of lighters to any activity, however the concerns of the PBP was heightened by the request for lighter fluid.
Has there been independent corroboration of this? How many individuals were
involved and how many lighters? (You can buy them in packs of ten at numerous stores -- it's cheaper that way).

6. According to most accounts, on Friday evening there were more police at Schenley Plaza than protesters. If that's the case, why weren't all those arrested for failure to disperse arrested at Schenley Plaza? How far does one need to disperse to to officially disperse?

7. Schenley Plaza is situated on a main Pittsburgh City street directly by restaurants, bars, stores, museums and a major college campus -- an area used by students and non students alike. The police gave the Order to Disperse at 10:42PM on a Friday evening. Arrests were made along at least a few blocks on Forbes Ave. How would it be possible that people not attending the rally at Schenley Plaza would not have been swept up in the melee?

8. Police enter Pitt Quad at Pitt Dorms. There is no protest activity occurring there. They order people to "go home" when this is their home. Bizarrely, while ordering them to go home, they do not allow them to enter the dorms. Video here.

9. Police enter the Pitt dorms. They tell students that they will be kicked out of college if they leave the dorm. Video here. I believe that these are the freshman dorms. So that would be dorms occupied largely by 18-year olds, away from home for the first time, and only at college for about a month.

Or to think of it another way, you are a resident of an apartment building and are in the foyer. The police come into the foyer and tell you if you leave the building, you will be arrested.

10. While the police order everyone on at least three blocks of Forbes to disperse and "go home," not only are police blocking entrances to the publics' homes, the doors to their homes are locked. Were there orders issued to lock the dorms? If so, who gave those orders? Who actually locked the doors?

11. The University of Pittsburgh issued warnings to students (via phone messages) on the 25th:

Pitt students were advised to stay inside last night, and many have received alerts from the university via voicemail or text messages.

Junior Sean Malloy said he received a phone message saying, "conditions may be deteriorating in Oakland. Students are advised to remain near their residences."

Notice that the warning said "near" and not "in." Near would have included the Quad, the great lawn -- and yes -- Schenley Plaza.

12. Any Pitt student who was outside in the heart of Oakland (very near their dorms) on an otherwise pleasant Friday evening would have been faced with tear gas, rubber bullets, arresting officers and locked entrance to their homes.

13. If Pitt students were arrested, they will face a Judiciary Board that holds the power to suspend, expel or recommend community service.

14. Pitt students weren't the only ones arrested. Notably members of the local mainstream print media and independent media were also arrested. Interestingly enough, while some media members did get caught up in tear gas at earlier protests, none seem to have been arrested until after the G-20 pulled out and members of the big national and international media had left. More importantly, not only were they arrested, but they had their video confiscated/destroyed by the police according to this claim:

Is that legal?


Gloria said...

Maria, you've raised excellent points. I was listening to the police scanner on Friday and they said U Pitt police were telling city of Pgh. police, (or whatever that G20 security force was a mixture of), that they weren't allowed to enter Pitt property. Seems there's a loose link in the chain of command. These two security entities were at odds, so one could've been locking dorms while others bullied kids towards the dorms, or, aw hell, they don't know, so why should I?

Maria said...


Unfortunately while I was listening to the police scanner online and reading tweets Thursday night, I wasn't paying attention Friday night. I didn't know what was going on until it was already over.

I was listening Thursday night because the helicopters were so damn loud all night that I was sure something had to be happening here on the South Side.

Mike said...

I wasn't there, and just saw the news reports.

However, I got the feeling Thursday and Friday night that they brought in all these police and "cool" anti-riot technology, and they felt they needed to do something with them.

Outside of a few idiots, the protesters seemed relatively mellow, and not quite like the hooligans you see in Europe.

EdHeath said...

Maria, as far as the main doors into the dorms themselves being locked from the inside, that would be standard Pitt policy all the time. Back in the seventies and eighties there used to non-students roaming the halls and even living in dorms. Pitt finally realized how dangerous that was and started having attendants buzz people with ID's into their dorms.

You raise real good questions, though. I am still disturbed that it seems like many people have said they wanted to move away from the crowds, only to be blocked by clouds of pepper gas in some directions and lines of police in the other directions.

I can see where the police were faced with a Catch 22. If they dispersed a crowd of a thousand into Oakland, would that mean a thousand broken windows an hour later? The police in the US don't have access to any sort of protective detention, so I guess arresting the crowds was practically the only way to restrict their movements legally. Except that arrest without a reasonable cause should be ilegal.

Meanwhile the Pitt police would also have a second duty, to make sure non-Pitt students did not get into the dorms, or even that the students that did get into a dorm live in that dorm. I suspect the Pitt police did not do very well with that duty. Messy. I don't know if Pitt ID's have dorm information on them, but if not, Pitt may want to start putting on them.

Joshua said...

Pitt IDs should have dorm info on them. I know that in order to get into my Darragh St. Apartments building, I need to scan my card in my building, while if I tried in the building across the courtyard, it won't work.

Maria said...

So, is there a way to let no one in even if they have a card OR were these Pitt students fleeing to a dorm that was not their dorm?

matt pritt said...

I lived in the Towers in the late 80s and at that point in time the dorms had attendants that had to buzz you in, you had to show your ID and the sticker on it that you resides there in order to get in. Not sure if those attendants have been replaced or not, I would think they hadn't been as we had to sign in guests (no overnight visitors except on weekends) and simply swiping a card would leave that aspect of the dorms unsecure. That was of course before the student apartment complexes were built, and I am unfamiliar with any changes that have been made in the last 20 years.

Eric Williams said...

Maria, I think this is the most reasonable and well-presented post you've written for this blog (at least that I've seen). Kudos. I'll be spreading it around shortly.

Maria said...

Thanks. :-)

luckyzhu said...

I would think they hadn't been as we had to sign in guests (no overnight visitors except on weekends) and simply swiping a card would leave that aspect of the dorms unsecure.
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