Groggy but not subdued, anarchists hail protest success with little damage
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They weren't stockpiling human waste to throw at police.
They didn't set cars ablaze or chain themselves together in "sleeping dragons" with PVC pipe.
The anarchists who police and media had warned for months could wreak havoc on the city during the G-20 summit didn't exactly fulfill that expectation. Instead, they smashed some windows and turned over a few Dumpsters, flooded the streets of Lawrenceville and staged sporadic uprisings for hours elsewhere, met by a large contingent of riot police at almost every turn.
Some were sprayed with OC gas, others pelted with rubber bullets. Still others were arrested in the demonstrations, which they had spent their summers planning.
Then yesterday, groggy but not subdued, the contingent joined thousands of other protesters in a city-sanctioned march that was largely uneventful, beyond some chanting laced with swear words and a little taunting of police. Some had shed their all-black attire for shorts and T-shirts.
So, were the protests everything the anarchists had envisioned during meetings and trainings?
"We tried to do what we wanted to do, and we wanted to take to the streets in a show of resistance against the G-20," one member, Alex Bradley, said. "In that respect, I think it was a success."
As the summit and the protests it spawned wound to a close yesterday, members of one of the more visible -- and vilified -- anarchist groups, the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project, reflected on their experiences.
"Even though people had to fight to save themselves from the riot police, people continued to remobilize so many times, we didn't let the police keep us down," said Amanda Zeiders, who tried to snap as many photos as she could during Thursday's actions. "It was great for the movement."
There were scary moments, she said, when she was separated from friends, and painful moments of dehydration. "It was intense," she said. "It was surely a great day."
The group issued a statement during Thursday's unrest declaring the "people's uprising" a success and proof of "people's willingness to resist global capitalism despite the combined forces of state repression."
Mr. Bradley described Thursday's march out of Arsenal Park in Lawrenceville as "people power," whereas yesterday's permitted event was "an appeal to people in power," each with its own merit.
The group said its arrest count -- 17 in four hours, by members' estimates -- was relatively low, and no one was badly hurt.
Mr. Bradley said the downing of Dumpsters might have been protesters' attempts to shield themselves from police, who threw tear gas and blared what he called "a sonic weapon," the long-range acoustic device.
"The Dumpsters people pushed down the road ran into an armored personnel carrier," he said. "I really hope the armored personnel carrier was all right."
The group blamed the mayhem, which left windows broken, on police "overreaction."
The Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project had been holding public meetings since early June, when it launched a Web site and issued a call to action.
"We are asking you to come to Pittsburgh with every ounce of anger and rage that you feel when your local projects refuse to manifest into something larger, fiercer, or broader, or when that anger itself forces you into isolation or alienation," the Web site said.
The anarchists quickly captured the attention of reporters and police, who, group members believe, were always keeping an eye on them.
As the summit approached, the group turned a Greenfield storefront into a "convergence space" for gatherings. Dozens of police officers in vans and a hazardous materials truck watched the headquarters from a nearby parking lot on Wednesday night, during a meeting to coordinate the next day's events. They left -- and returned again -- without incident.
"It's a psychological attack," the group's spokesman Noah Williams said at the time. "They want people to feel threatened constantly."
The anarchists also fought against what they consider media "scare stories" that claimed anarchists were squatting in vacant buildings, collecting human waste to throw during protests.
Fear later brewed over a list, posted to the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project's Web site, of locations, including Starbucks coffee shops, police stations and banks, and other places with "links to globalism" where possible protests could take place.
Some stores boarded their windows, but there were few, if any, reports of trouble at sites on the list.
Throughout it all, anarchists tried to explain their views as simply as they could to skeptical inquirers. They left fliers at 4,500 homes and went on radio talk shows.
Patrick Young, of the anarchist Pittsburgh Organizing Group, led theoretical and tactical training workshops for demonstrators, including one on "lockboxing" with PVC pipe and chains.
He said the summit protests were an extension of the work anarchists try to do daily.
But now, he said, a break is in store.
"As soon as everyone gets out of jail, I am going to take a long, long, long nap," he said. "And probably have a couple beers."
First Published September 26, 2009 12:00 am