One major difference I noticed between these "riots" and those following the Steelers Super Bowl was the number of cops who were physically involved in the crowd. During the Steelers festivities, the Pitt Police were noticeably present but only moved into the crowd to remove individuals who were crossing the line. From what I remember, everybody clapped when the destructive people were taken away in cuffs because a large majority of students didn't want to see Oakland damaged. During the G-20. however, students were seemingly arrested at will, whether they were active participants, curious bystanders, or people just minding their own business.
Were there justifiable concerns regarding vandalism and recklessness? Yes-Thursday night showed that there were a few miscreants capable of inflicting damage to Oakland businesses and there were threatening posters throughout Oakland on Friday more or less saying: who cares about the police or the cops, let's meet again tonight. These factors and a couple others undoubtedly combined to put police on edge, but I feel that they are trained to deal with these types of stresses. Admittedly, at the same time, students should have known better to be close to the action on Friday night after the precedent that the police had set on Thursday night in terms of quick arrests. Students should have realized that the warnings trumpeted over the loudspeaker were to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, even students who did heed these warnings found themselves at the mercy of the police, which leads me to my next point.
From reading the Pitt News today, it appears that there was some confusion and in-house arguing between Pitt Police and members of outside police forces on the scene, especially regarding the incidents on Towers patio. Radio scanners provide evidence that Pitt Police were against having a police presence in and around Towers Lobby while other police felt that they did not want to risk having a trespasser enter the lobby. There is a period of several minutes in which Pitt Police and the other policemen argue over whose decision is more valid. The result of the heavy police presence right outside the dorms was several arrests, many of them appearing suspect. To the credit of the Pitt Police, Chief Delaney and his team are working to clear as many names as possible to minimize court hearings and expenses. Once again unfortunately, however, is that once you are arrested, it is difficult to clear your name and may require the hiring of a lawyer, an expensive process. Innocent students may have to prove their innocence, seemingly the opposite of what our judicial system preaches.
We have not yet heard the end of the G-20 discussion and its coinciding events. One final note is that I idealistically wish the focus was more on the presence of 20 world leaders and that the battle between police and students was not so intense. It was truly unique to have those leaders present, especially so close to our campus. I do not feel like I was granted the opportunity to appreciate that enough. I did have the opportunity to perform some informal interviews at the rally on Friday morning, in which several activist groups stated their causes. It was an enriching experience, as I got the chance to talk to people from all over the world, including Palestine, Tibet, and Mexico. Obama and his administration have already mentioned that there may be a future G-20 conference back in Pittsburgh. I hope so, as I feel that another one could go much differently, with the focus on the economics and politics instead of on the police and students. Additionally, Pittsburgh is a candidate for the Republican National Convention in three years, which would be very intriguing considering the relatively heavy Democratic influence within the city limits. Either event should be welcomed in my opinion because of the leadership presence involved. I hope that both events do come to Pittsburgh so that I can continue to enhance my knowledge and experiences.