Police used all the nonlethal tools at their disposal to thwart protesters at the Group of 20 summit this week, firing bean bags, hurling canisters of smoke and pepper spray, using flash-bang grenades and batons and deploying a high-tech sound-blasting device meant to push back crowds.This is what happened Friday night:
It was all a bit much for civil liberties groups and protesters.
They decried what they called a heavy-handed and unwarranted police response, saying riot officers focused on largely peaceful, if unsanctioned, demonstrations when they should have been paying more attention to small groups of vandals that smashed windows of city businesses.
"It's not just intimidation, it's disruption and in some cases outright prevention of peaceful protesters being able to get their message out," said Witold "Vic" Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "In a week when we need freedom of speech more than ever, free speech died in Pittsburgh this week."
The story seems to be the same that night:
Post-Gazette reporter Sadie Gurman, 24, was among those arrested on the Pitt Cathedral of Learning lawn.
"I was arrested on the cathedral lawn while truly trying to get out of the fray," she said.
Ms. Gurman said she had gone to Schenley Plaza because of news alerts she received on her cell phone. At Schenley Plaza, she was talking with colleagues and others she had met while covering G-20 events. In the plaza, she said there was one person on a loudspeaker. Others were standing around talking, running or playing games, such as duck-duck-goose. She estimated the number of civilians in the plaza at about 200.
Much of the plaza was flanked by police officers.
"There was definitely an energy that was very ominous at that point," she said. Even as police ordered the crowd to disperse, Ms. Gurman said some people in the plaza stayed and chanted, "You're sexy, you're cute, take off your riot suit."
Ms. Gurman said she left the plaza and went onto Forbes Avenue.
"I was trying to move in a way that would not be in their perimeter. I was walking on Forbes toward Craig Street to get out of it. Another police van pulled up. Additional officers in riot gear jumped out and said to 'move back, move back' and were pushing us the opposite direction back toward Bigelow."
She went that direction and ended up having to jump over bushes on the Cathedral lawn to get out of the way of police.
"I thought I was OK there. The cops jumped over the bushes, too," she said.
She said a helicopter was overhead. With the cathedral behind a group of people, the police made a half circle and ordered people to lie down on the ground.
"Some of the girls were hugging each other and crying, saying to the police, 'Tell us how we can get out of here peacefully. We don't want to be here, but you've trapped us.' "
She estimated about 30 people were put into a police vehicle. She was released about 10 hours after her arrest.
Tracy Hickey, an 18-year-old freshman, said she had been arrested while watching the protest as an off-duty ACLU legal observer.And:
When she realized that many of those being ordered to disperse had "nowhere to disperse to," she saidheld open the door to a dormitory, ushering a crowd of screaming students into the residence. She said police then arrested her.
Peter Shell, co-chair of the Thomas Merton Center's antiwar committee, said he had gone to Oakland Friday night to celebrate the day's successful and peaceful People's March to the G-20, which his organization had sponsored.Trapped. Tear-gassed. Then arrested.
When police made Mr. Shell leave Schenley Plaza, he was forced onto the Cathedral of Learning lawn. When he tried to leave via Fifth Avenue, he was surrounded, trapped and arrested, he said.
"We tried going left, we tried going forward, we tried going right," he said. "We wanted to disperse and they did not let us disperse."
Mayor Ravenstahl owns this. All of it. Every rubber bullet that hit someone's back or someone's face. Every protester humiliated for a group photo:
This is all Luke's now.