Well, we survived the G20....

...and I didn't see one poo-flinging anarchist - imagine that. To the KDKA talk radio hosts who freaked out my family members with your apocalyptic predictions...haha! You were wrong.

However, what happened at Pitt last night is really kind of disturbing.

Pitt's campus seemed to be the hotbed of action during the whole event, although for a college campus there were remarkably few organized protests or anti-G20 sentiments at all. The police clashed repeatedly with students who were doing what students typically do on a warm, late summer night in Oakland...hanging out around Oakland.

I worked on campus on Thursday and there was a very edgy vibe going on at that point, with hundreds of officers in riot gear, boarded up windows, and oddly empty sidewalks and campus buildings. The police had literally nothing to do all day long. So it kind of makes sense that once the students came out for the evening, there would be some kind of confrontation.

On Friday evening, I received this text message from the University's emergency alert system:

"Conditions may be deteriorating in Oakland. Students are advised to remain near their residences."

That was it...no information about what the "conditions" were (terror plot? anarchist invasion? riot?) or what particular area to avoid, so I'm assuming that once thousands of students received this message, out of sheer curiosity they went out looking for the excitement, if they were not already out. I would love to know what administrator made the call to send out this ridiculous message. What were you thinking?

Here's a video of the action, posted by Pitt News.

The rest of the local media was distinctly silent on this issue, by the way. Odd, since they were running around the city for three days declaring every gathering of 10 or more people a "protest".

Who is to blame here? I guess you could argue that the students should have just stayed in their dorms, but there certainly is nothing illegal or out of the ordinary about hanging out on the streets of Oakland at night. The police did issue a call to disburse, but from the video clips, it appears they were a bit heavy-handed in their "non-lethal" arrest tactics. I blame that on boredom and testosterone. And a general culture of acceptance of police brutality in this city.

I'm going to be closely following the dialogue on campus about this incident in the coming weeks. I wonder if it will jump-start an apathetic generation to at least question the state of democracy and free speech in our country. Will Pitt change how they handle future crowd control circumstances? (cuz yinz know we're going to the Super Bowl again this year, and that will surely require some crowd control.)

So what do you think? Are Pitt students jackasses who provoked the police? Or were did the police embarrass themselves with their lack of restraint, tarnishing an otherwise very peaceful few days of Global Summit in our fair city?


Trisha R. Butler said...

I really thought the media would grab a firmer hold on what sounded like a ridiculous throwdown on Pitt campus. I read that a random jogger was arrested because she couldn't get through the police line. But, I suppose that maybe it's collective karma for February's debacle. However, it still doesn't seem fair to the otherwise innocent students who spent a very long night in jail.

Anonymous said...

I have a couple of friends that just happen to be Pittsburgh Police Officers and fine human beings to boot. They neither practice nor condone police brutality. Unfortunately the actions of a few bad can tarnish the good reputation of many. The police were anxious as they were ordered to put their lives on the line with only past G20 summits to draw on. Perhaps some officers overreacted but give the majority credit for protecting property and keeping peace. And maybe we should look towards the story hungry media for fueling unnecessary angst. Aunt DC

k said...

I don't see this as a problem of a couple of crooked Pittsburgh cops. There are enough of them on the force that they were probably sprinkled all across the city, and by and large there were very few problems.

I agree that most police officers are decent law abiding people, who do take daily risks to keep me safe. For that I am grateful. However, there is ample evidence of a history of chronic and severe misconduct among Pittsburgh police officers, which culminated in a class action lawsuit and mandated FBI oversight several years ago.

In any case, the Oakland situation was completely out of line. In my opinion, the police who were dispatched to control the crowd were not adequately prepared. They showed a clear lack of understanding about regular pedestrian traffic flow around the campus buildings. They deployed crowd control devices that trapped students who were simply trying to move out of the way, and were then arrested.

The University mismanaged the situation as well, by sending out unclear text messages to students. The decisions about how to handle class cancellation and activities were delayed until the last minute.

The police may have been anxious, but they do not get a free pass on this.

The situation needs to be investigated and a better plan made to handle crowd control in Oakland.