Group planning 'mass march' to disrupt summit

Unsanctioned protest sets up possibility for clash with police

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A group organized to resist the forthcoming G-20 summit in Pittsburgh announced plans for an unsanctioned mass march from Lawrenceville to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on the first day of the meeting, setting up the possibility of a clash with police.

The group, calling itself the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project, is declaring a "People's Uprising, a Sept. 24 mass march to disrupt the G-20 summit," according to a statement on its Web site.

The group, which is likely to include a coalition of anarchists and other self-described "anti-authoritarians," has called for a variety of "autonomous actions," or efforts to attack various locations they view as symbols of global capitalism.

The news release came as lawyers for several other groups asked a federal court to order the City of Pittsburgh to allow protesters to use two city parks for camping and "tent cities" and to grant a permit for a march organized by a coalition of groups that have no announced plans to disrupt the G-20.

Such actions would be the first sizable test of such groups since last September, when plans to disrupt the Republican National Convention were themselves disrupted after anarchist groups were infiltrated by state and federal agents. Eight presumed leaders of the planned disruptions were arrested prior to the beginning of the convention.

A G-20 meeting in London in April included extensive rioting and ended in the death of one man after he was beaten by police.

"While protesters plan to march on the summit, the Pittsburgh police have made clear their intent to fulfill their historical role of protecting the interests of the rich and powerful over those of workers and the oppressed," the statement by the Resistance Project said.

Police Chief Nate Harper last night said police response to protests will be up to the protesters themselves.

"If people are lawful there will be no law enforcement impact," he said. "However, if people are unlawful, arrests will be made. The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police will not deny anyone from exercising their first amendment right to free speech and lawful assembly, however we expect any assembly to be done in a peaceful and law-abiding manner."

One prominent anarchist collective, called CrimethInc, has previously praised the Pittsburgh Organizing Group, the core of the city's anarchist activism, for its performance during the 2008 Republican Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

In the months leading to the convention, POG said it would blockade an identified intersection in downtown St. Paul and, despite the prior publicity, managed to roll a car into the street disable it and close the intersection.

"They are technically exceptionally competent," said Sam Rosenfeld, a former British Army officer and chairman of the Densus Group, an international security consulting firm. Mr. Rosenfeld said his firm has monitored developments around the Pittsburgh G-20 protesters and believes they are capable of creating havoc.

"They won't stop the meeting but I think there's a very good chance there will be mass arrests, I think there's a very good chance there will be use of CS gas indiscriminately, I think there will be footage of people breaking windows -- all those things that make people think Seattle," he said.

Mr. Rosenfeld also raised the possibility of militants infiltrating permitted marches, or triggering a police response that could sweep up non-violent protesters.

Francine Porter, an organizer with Code Pink, an anti-war group seeking permits for a march and a tent city, called the issue "a good question.

"That's something nobody has any control over. We've been straightforward with the city as far as our intentions."

Federal intelligence reports to date have indicated that the anarchist groups expect recruits to join them from throughout the northeast and Ohio.

Federal authorities are also expecting "affinity actions" -- sympathetic protests or attacks -- timed to the Pittsburgh event, and targeting chain stores such as the Gap and Starbucks in New York.

Another possible target includes the International Coal conference, scheduled for Pittsburgh two days before the G-20.

CrimethInc, the anarchist group, noted the juxtaposition.

"This opportunity to connect the dots is being handed to anarchists on a platter -- the question is whether we have the numbers, networks and momentum to take advantage of it."


Dennis B. Roddy can be reached at droddy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1965.


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