If you haven’t seen any news reports about the G20 conference in Pittsburgh yet, chances are by the end of the week you will.
On September 23-24, leaders from 20 of the world’s economic superpowers will meet to iron out world economic issues behind closed doors in Pittsburgh. According to reports, these leaders — including President Obama — plan to talk about oil prices, U.S. debt, world economic growth and restoring faith in the financial markets.
But on the streets, potentially thousands of protesters from across the country will descend on the conferences to disrupt what they see as the meeting of an undemocratic group of world elites intending on further manipulating the third world. The high unemployment rate is also high on the list of grievances. Based on past protests, these dissenters plan to march through the streets, block traffic and generally make themselves heard.
Since the press are not allowed in the actual G20 conference meetings, I’ve come to Pittsburgh to report on the latter group. For the next four or five days, I’ll follow the protesters, interview some, avoid heavy-handed police tactics and hopefully make sense of it all.
I have a little experience in this. In 1999-2000, when anti-globalization protests were all the rage, I travelled to a few cities rocked by such protests. I was part-spectator, part-activist; I believed in the major grievances of protesters, but I was not convinced that marching with signs and getting arrested was a solution.
I still feel that way, but that doesn’t change the rights of protesters to take grievances to their government. Unfortunately, law enforcement doesn’t always agree. The reaction to dissent has taken a sharp turn for the worse since 2001. One need only to look at last year’s Republican National Convention for evidence: unprovoked police brutality, arrest of legitimate journalists and the liberal use of toxic agents to control the crowd.
That’s partly why I’m here: To report on an important conference while documenting the protest movement surrounding it, because the national media refuses to tackle these hard subjects in favor of easy-to-explain soundbites. As past protests have shown, the only real coverage of these events comes from independent media.
It also helps that I”m an unemployed journalist.