Thursday, September 24, 2009
[Editor's note: Last night, I filed a brief dispatch about an impromptu marching-band demonstration, which took place as the Green Jobs rally in Point State Park was breaking up. Here's a fuller account by our Bill O'Driscoll. Reading it over, I'm reminded of all the media fearmongering that has surrounded the G-20. Based on the dire warnings we've heard about anarchists running wild through the streets, you wouldn't think 150 youthful activists could walk the nighttime streets of Pittsburgh -- with minimal police escort -- and not try to tear down a skyscraper.]
As marchers reached the new PNC building, not far from Point State Park, they numbered 150 and were already in full cry -- with at least three snare drums, a french horn, a trombone and other brass, plus a clarinet. Many were part of an anarchist marching band called Breakaway, said Alex Lotorto, a Muhlenberg College grad who'd just moved to Pittsburgh and is involved with organizing G-20 protests.
The marchers had only a small police escort as they headed up Fifth Avenue: one cop near the front of the procession, whose job was to keep marchers on the sidewalk, and two police vehicles trailing behind. The police inside the vehicles never left their cars.
The protesters carried signs urging a "Better World Beyond G-20," and most of their chants were in the "This is what democracy looks like" vein.
As they approached Fifth and Grant, an intersection dominated by BNY Mellon, they cahnted "Bankers, bankers, watch your back: / We don't protest, we attack." But over the course of the hour, they never attacked anything, and most of the route was deserted.
It's not clear how much advance preparation went into the march. One participant, Mike Yoffee, said the march gathered spontaneously after the concert in Point State Park ended. But that didn't explain the typeset song sheets some marchers were carrying.
Lacey MacAuley, who was taking photos of the march, said it had formed earlier in the day as a "text mob" -- a response, she said, to the commercialized music at the rally. ("Music should be of the people, by the people, for the people," she said.)
"We saw a need for learning the protest songs of our history," added Lotorto.
As the march approach the new Penguins arena, demonstrators spilled into the street. And while TV news crews had followed the march earlier, it was here that the demonstration receieved its first noticeable live audience: a handful of patrons from Aces and Deuces Loung and other nearby bars. Some barflies applauded the protest: One called out, "I'm still with the cause. My heart's wit'chall."
The police presence dropped away, and the protest began to break up about an hour after it began. It dwindled to 50, and some participants spoke of heading to Oakland.
As we approached the more residential part of Uptown,somebody said, "Quiet down: We're going through a neighborhood."
And the marchers fell quiet.