Tear gas, insults lobbed on Lawrenceville streets

As protesters and police clash at their doorsteps, neighborhood residents react with exasperation

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As a Pittsburgh SWAT armored truck rolled down Penn Avenue yesterday, pursuing a group of black-clad anarchists, a half-dozen burly men stood in front of Kopec's Bar and cheered them on.

"These low-lifes have no business in our neighborhood," Frank Caito yelled from the corner of 36th Street and Penn.

"Here come our heroes!" another man shouted at police, prompting one officer in riot gear to wave at him from the top of the SWAT truck.

A block away, the mood was far different.

"Just let them walk!" said Linda DeFazio, 53, as she recovered from her encounter with a cloud of tear gas on 37th Street, where she's lived for 13 years. "I have asthma and ephysema."

Lawrenceville residents were caught in the crossfire yesterday afternoon, when 400 protesters flooded the neighborhoods's narrow streets to flee pursuing police. Some were furious that police used gas in a dense residential area to disperse the crowd, while others were eager to see the officers crack down on an illegal march that had started at Arsenal Park and was headed to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, site of the G-20 meetings.

Tony Ceoffe, executive director of Lawrenceville United, said he was relieved that his neighborhood didn't experience any of the property damage that affected other areas. City cleanup crews quickly moved Dumpsters that were pushed into streets by protesters.

"Thank God," he said. "Not even one broken window."

Some residents were shaken, he said, but "the vast majority of people think the police did a wonderful job today."

Around 3 p.m., police blocked the march's procession down Liberty Avenue, causing many protesters to flee down Denny Street and into the heart of lower Lawrenceville.

Near the corner of 37th and Butler streets, by St. Augustine Church, police deployed a large quantity of gas to block the crowd.

Timothy Donatelli, 30, was sleeping on the third floor of a home he shares with his mother, Ms. DeFazio, when the cloud seeped inside.

"There was gas everywhere," he said a few hours later, with one eye still bloodshot from the exposure. "It just overwhelms you."

Ms. DeFazio said she started to vomit, and a group of "street medics," who travel with protest groups, ran over and used water to wash out her eyes.

Jane Bole, 55, had just finished her shift as a waitress at Ritter's Diner in Bloomfield and was walking to her 37th Street home when the crowd of protesters started running past.

"Please, I'm trying to walk here," she told them.

"We're sorry ma'am," one protester said. Several then offered to walk her to her door.

On nearby Sardis Way, Michelle Greygor and her mother, Marian, said the protesters they met were not as well-mannered.

A few, they said, threw objects at the Greygors' two Rottweilers, yelling, "Tell your dogs to shut up!"

Michelle Greygor shouted at one female protester, "Why is this happening in my neighborhood?"

The protester said, "You're part of the problem."

Furious and red-faced, Ms. Greygor yelled back, using a slew of expletives.

Both Greygors, lifelong Lawrenceville residents, said yesterday's events were a first for their close-knit community. They questioned the wisdom of bringing the G-20 summit to a city like Pittsburgh.

"Why not Alaska? Why not out in the desert?" said Marian Greygor, 62.

At Kopec's, Mr. Caito helped the bar owner recover a blue Dumpster that protesters had snatched and pushed down 36th Street.

Mr. Caito, who does maintenance at several rental properties in the neighborhood, was perplexed by all the commotion.

"Why are they protesting?" he said. "They're all young kids who don't want to go out and work for a living."

Jerome L. Sherman can be reached at 412-263-1183 or jsherman@post-gazette.com .


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