09/26/2009 04:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

G-20 Diary: Hyperbole All Around

Google "Pittsburgh," "G-20" and "riots" and up pop 2,880 results. Maybe the world media were expecting riots. Maybe a lot in the "news" biz actually wanted riots. One particularly clueless legal observer said the police response was "akin to Kent State." Um, yeah, a lot of passersby and local residents got caught up in the police response, but nobody was seriously hurt, let alone killed.

The protesters getting most of the attention from the press and the police crowed that their efforts were a success.

What we've seen today is people's willingness to resist global capitalism despite the combined forces of state repression. The police have rampantly abused their so-called less lethal weapons. What less lethal means is that they are willing to kill to silence those voices, which are already excluded from these summits. We've seen it in Argentina, we've seen it in South Korea and now we're living it ourselves.

Uh-huh. The reference is to the "games of cat and mouse" that protesters played with police who broke up an unpermitted march down city streets. What the G-20 Resistance Project actually succeeded in doing was antagonizing the locals that the former claimed to represent. Among the comments

These low-lifes have no business in our neighborhood.

Why are they protesting? They're all young kids who don't want to go out and work for a living.

One of the out-of-town ACLU volunteers I chatted with was surprised at that sentiment (echoed by comments in my previous post), that regular Pittsburghers were far more likely to support the police than the protesters. It was my turn to be surprised that the young Floridian hadn't heard about the ambush of three local officers by right-wing blogger obsessed that President Obama was going to take his guns away. In Pittsburgh, members of the police are likely to be neighbors, friends and/or relatives.

Another "success" that the more histrionic demonstrators notched up was in grabbing the spotlight away from quieter but more pointed messages from the array of anti-war, environmental and pro-jobs groups. Personally, I have a lot more respect for the people in the bright yellow "Free Tibet" shirts than the masked marauders in black. And the overall award for cojones in peaceful demonstration goes to Greenpeace's rappelling onto a major bridge to hang a banner [video]:


On the opposite end, the stupidest "protester" is likely David Japenga, charged with doing most of the vandalism during the various demonstrations. Among the many storefronts with smashed windows (tied for stupidest target) are the Oakland location of Pamela"s Restaurant, which was the local hangout of the late August Wilson when he was writing here, and the Irish Design Center. Both of them are locally owned businesses with excellent reputations and valuable contributors to the community in general, the arts in particular.

All in all, things were a lot less awful than everyone feared, and I agree whole-heartedly with Patrick Young of the anarchist Pittsburgh Organizing Group, who told the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette:

As soon as everyone gets out of jail, I am going to take a long, long, long nap. And probably have a couple beers.