9.26.2009

Deny, Dismiss, Ignore.

After watching the G-20 protests and all that encompasses them unfold I am forced to ask the question..."Why?". Why do towns, cities and police departments create the escalation of tension and violence at protests when these things could be avoided, to the best of everyone's ability?

Case in point: Pittsburgh went on lock down for the G-20. Before the event was to take place, they set up perimeters, deputized additional police from other towns and states, had their riot gear ready to go, warned locals, and a myriad of other G-20 preparations. And rightfully so, as historically speaking there is a very large turnout for the Summit.

However, reports from many a source are now indicating that protest permits were summarily denied, dismissed or ignored with no grounds, and no logical explanation as to why. They were prepared for large crowds, and knew that people would turn out regardless of permits. Why not simply approve the permits so that people could demonstrate and protest and march to their hearts content, and the police could focus on people who were actually breaking an actual law?

Of course it also begs the question, why do we need permits to protest, anyway? Certainly I do see some instances where coordination via the use of permits is a valuable tool, but in a case such as this, really why bother? They clearly prepped themselves for large crowds and days of protests, riots even, even though they only approved one or two permits. This happens to be one of those instances where the city should have just said, OK - let's prepare for a mass turnout, don't worry about permits, just keep things orderly.

I'm reminded of a time when I lived elsewhere. Every year there was a big, ginormous bike run that ended in our little city. 50,000 bikers easy would stream in, and partake of the festivities that the city and locals prepared for them. One year, the city decided they were not going to approve the permit. They wanted to shut the event down. They went to the guy that ran the event, a local business man and fellow biker, and told him under no circumstances was the run going to happen this year.

He said "Well OK, I won't organize it or run it, but the bikers are going to show up, permits, bike run, or not. And if they find out it's canceled this year, and there is no one to coordinate the event, they're going to be mad and all Hell will break loose."

The city rethought their position, and allowed an organized event to take place. Smart move on their part.

Pittsburgh should have done the same. If they had, the protesters would have marched, the events would have gone off pretty smoothly. I'm sure someone, somewhere would have smashed something, and been quickly arrested - but I doubt any escalation would have occurred beyond that. This would be a media non-event, and everyone would feel somewhat satisfied. Instead, they created a monster that only emboldened those who already oppose authority, oppose the G-20 and all it stands for, and oppose capitalism.

They see it - and the conspiracy theorist in me does as well - as an intentional move so as to arrest as many people who oppose the powers that be and the WTO as possible by forcing them into a spot between free speech and arrest. Then putting a lock down on a city that already has natural barricades so that the people will not be heard. In other words, they forced the situation. And of course, many media outlets are already placing the blame on the protesters. Sure, they marched without a permit...see my above comments on that idea....

The marches were otherwise peaceful until the police decided that they were there illegally. Really? I was unaware that the First Amendment required permits before use. Of course you also have the police who attacked University students on their own campus, and in their own dorms and campus buildings. Smooth move, Pittsburgh. You can't require residents who aren't protesting to "go home" when they are already "home" and then punish them for not going to some other place of residence.

No wonder the Uni students got violent. I would too under those circumstances.

And just a note about said First Amendment right. It's not just free speech, but also the right to assemble. The "they got what they deserved" and "They have the right to speak freely, not to march without permits" crowd seems to be missing that part. We have the inalienable right to assemble, and to speak our peace.

Cities and areas that readily deny, dismiss or ignore the permits filed by people trying to do things in an orderly, lawful fashion have only themselves to blame for what ensues.

More videos:

Riot police VS University students and the Student Union.
Footage of the PEACEFUL assembly, and the not-so peaceful response
Alex Jones Video of the peaceful protest, the police response, includes links to other unprovoked attacks against protesters.

8 comments:

Arch said...

Well said. Like you, I found the permit vs. 1st Amendment issue frustrating at best. After a little research, I found 2 sites (among many) that summarize and/or explain the matter. While there are some restrictions to be observed (they seem reasonable to me; let each reader decide for him- or herself), I think everyone who wishes to exercise their 1st Amendment right ought to become familiar with the information in these 2 documents:

Coloradans For Peace
http://www.coloradansforpeace.org/?page_id=31

PUFMM (People United for Medical Marijuana)
http://www.pufmm.org/docs/How to use your First Amendment Rights.pdf (NOTE: This is a PDF file).

Anok said...

Excellent resources, thanks! Yep, like I said above, I can understand and even agree to consensual, common sense policies regarding the use of public spaces to protest, but really there are events that should simply be left open, full well knowing that there will be a massive turnout. I'm still dumbfounded as to why they would deny or ignore so many permit requests. One's imagination just runs wild with possible answers...

anticsrocks said...

Might it be that the Pittsburgh Police were bracing for the worst based on past protests of this sort? I am not excusing any over reaction by the Police, but it seems that these types of protests do seem to get out of hand.

Anok said...

That's my point, exactly. They were prepared for protests. Had they approved the permits, and just let people march, they would have had no problems. Instead they locked down the city, denied people's right to protest, (save for a few) and acted "surprised" when people showed up anyway.

They have only themselves to blame for what happened.

Had they been allowed to march (and had the police not broken into the dorms and churches to drag people out to gas and beat them) it would have been a non issue!

Sergei said...

doesn't the permit undermine freedom of assembly anyways? if that's undermined than does it not cease to be inalienable?

Sergei said...

doesn't the permit undermine freedom of assembly anyways? if that's undermined than does it not cease to be inalienable?

Sergei said...

sorry for the double post, I thought I didn't hit the button

Anok said...

Sergie - yup, that's what I'm getting at! (And no problem about the double post, it happens ;))

Now, I''m not opposed to people using consideration and coordinating events with towns - I think a "permit" that can't be denied for the purpose of getting a town prepared for an event is perfectly OK. For example, you want to have a parade - working with the town to safely shut down roads and handle crowds isn't a bad idea. But I don't think the town should be able to deny it - only work with the group to make sure it's on a day they can do it (if not, change the date, don't deny it!), and that they have proper time, space and resources.