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Monday, September 28, 2009

Never mind civil liberties -- did police squander a PR opportunity?

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 7:46 AM

Going into the G-20, there was a lot of concern that anarchists might ruin a once-in-a-lifetime photo op. The "Black Bloc," civic leaders feared, might  give the city a black eye while global leaders looked on.

It didn't turn out that way. But it's still possible the POLICE might smudge the city's G-20 halo ... largely as a result of confrontations with students in Oakland on Friday night. Just as the city has sent a message to global leaders during the G20, it's also sent a message to lefty groups and people all over the world. THAT message has been bouncing around via e-mail and social media, and it is much less upbeat.

For example, a group opposed to police suveillance tactics directed me to this site, with more Oakland footage. Another lefty group, World Can't Wait, has posted its own critiques, and is circulating a petition that demands, among other things, a "thorough investigation of methods employed by law enforcement, and directed by Homeland Security and Chief of Police, including the crowd control methods and mass arrests."

Antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan is making her own appeal. And Alternet, a story-sharing site dedicated to left-of-center views, has a brief blog post of its own with video. 

ADDED: Oh, and I almost forgot this dispatch, from Democracy Now

And this is just a smattering of the stuff bouncing around outside town. It doesn't count the numerous e-mails coming in from locals and parents of college students ("I was afraid that my son, a student at Carnegie Mellon University, would be at risk of trauma due to the violence surrounding the G20 ... I listened and watched in horror as University of Pittsburgh studented describ[ed] and recorded the horrible behavior of the police officers.")

Not that I expect our business leaders to take the champagne off the ice or anything. Hell, if you're a business leader looking for a place to locate a new factory, you might LIKE the idea that Pittsburgh is a city willing to push around college kids and demonstrators when they get uppity. 

Then again, think of the bad press! Even The New York Times -- who previously had been content to tell us how great, like, Brillobox is -- has noted the events. And I get the feeling local media is going to view the next Bureau of Police press release with a bit more caution, given that Post-Gazette reporter Sadie Gurman was among those taken into custody by police. 

So with any luck, we'll soon be seeing the tourism office and the Allegheny Conference out in the streets opposing the tactics -- and demanding liberty, justice, and better PR for all. 

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