So, reading through other people’s comments on the events of this past night, I feel the need to comment on it. And, I intend to stick to the title I’ve given this post. I went down towards the park tonight with a few friends. They clearly wanted to go to simply observe what was going on. I went partially for that reason, and partially because there is a valid reason to protest groups like the G-20 (why 19 nations and the EU should get to dictate world policy to everyone without input escapes me, for one thing, but that is a topic for another day). When we first arrived there was a peaceful gathering. Apparently we missed the police clearly the area around the fountain, but generally there were protesters of all kinds sitting along the road. They were occupying about half of it, while lines of police lined the other half. While there was clearly a standoff, there wasn’t much tension in the air. The protesters eventually began singing and dancing, and the police started to fill in areas that they left. The entire feeling of the event changed after the police advanced to take the entire road. The group singing and dancing remained on the sidewalk, but now there was tension and fear present. Everyone could be seen looking over shoulders, keeping tabs on the police (and their ever growing numbers and ever expanding lines), preparing for the next charge. Someone mentioned that there wasn’t a cohesive sense of what was being protested. This is actually not as bad as they claimed, as one of the interesting things about anti-globalization protests is that they will draw in a wide variety of groups and people. If your issue is with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza, the G-20 provides a time to voice that, if it is environmentalism, protecting workers rights in the developing world, Tibet, women’s rights, etc, the important decision makers are there. People from this wide front of ideas can all come together to voice these opinions. That doesn’t make people unintelligent (though there are some like that in every protest, left-wing or right-wing). The protest and rally continued in this way for a while; with minor police movements in the areas surrounding the roads, and a few questionable arrests, all while the police expanded their area of coverage and increasingly surrounded the protest. Eventually, SWAT teams were sent into the area, more and more reinforcements arrived for the police, and their new sound dispersion system was brought on site. We were informed that, on the authority of the chief of police, we were all unlawfully assembling (yet, according to the first amendment (emphasis mine): “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”) This is when tear gas was fired into the crowd. Note that this was not the small part of the crowd on the street; this was the crowd in the park, which was within its rights under the first amendment. This led to a scramble, which apparently sent some scrambling to the far side of the Cathedral and towards Squirrel Hill, while a large number of us moved towards the Union. From this area we were able to see the plumes of tear gas fired at those protesters. The police then turned towards the crowd by the William Pitt Union. Rubber bullets were fired, tear gas deployed, and noise dispersion (in what may have been its first use in the United States) was used (I was able to avoid the bullets and only get the periphery of the gas). Student and non-student protesters continued to back up, moving towards the quad. Eventually, the police charged, locking this area down, and chasing protesters up both Fifth and Forbes Avenues, as well as taking over the quad dorms, apparently deploying tear gas to this areas (living spaces for students) and entering buildings. I personally left at this point towards Fifth Avenue to return home. When I got to Fifth, I found myself within a group of protesters about 10 feet from a rapidly advancing (running) line of riot police. I don’t think I have ever run as fast as I did then, and I quickly made my way up to my dorm. I am told that the Towers patio and lobby was raided, and that beatings and arrests took place, and that similar stories of lines of riot police chasing protesters occurred on Forbes Avenue, leading to some property damage and broken windows of businesses. I find it interesting that this damage occurred after protesters were being chased by the police in that direction, and that the police seemed to have begun these maneuvers with little to no provocation. I don’t believe that responsibility for the reports of rioting tonight lie solely with the protesters. The police acted with disregard for the rights of students (or people in general) and with a complete disproportionate response to events. Some estimates even had higher numbers of police on scene then protesters. The term police riot has been used to describe when, according to Wikipedia: “police [use] wrongful, disproportionate, unlawful, and/or illegitimate force.” This has been used to describe the 1999 WTO Protests in Seattle, which kicked off many of the newer tactics and regulations. This concept may very well also be applicable to tonight’s events.