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Friday, September 25, 2009

Demonstrating futility

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 3:53 AM

Well, so much for my hopes that Pittsburgh might be the "anti-Seattle." Given the confrontations between police and protesters during yesterday's unpermitted march, and the scattered acts of vandalism in the East End, a couple local professors might be having second thoughts this morning too.

But we're not alone. In the build-up to the G-20, most people were making the opposite prediction -- that Pittsburgh would be at the mercy of rampaging anarchists, coming in by the busload from all over the world. Yesterday's events suggest those predictions may be off-base too.

As recently as yesterday morning, news accounts were warning that "[police] intelligence reports suggest thousands of protesters are expected in the city Thursday and Friday."

So how many people turned out for the march from Arsenal Park? By the count of City Paper reporters on the scene and other sources, the action drew perhaps several hundred people -- maybe one thousand.

To put that in context, the 1999 Seattle WTO protests drew an estimated 50,000 protesters. Not all of those folks were mask-wearing anarchists. But the number of people arrested in Seattle was close to the total number of protesters yesterday.

And let's remember: The Seattle demonstrations scuttled the WTO's opening ceremonies, and may have played some role in the subsequent collapse of trade talks. In Downtown Pittsburgh, by contrast, it was impossible to tell the march was even happening.

Still, we've got another day ahead. And I don't want to underestimate (again) the willingness of some demonstrators to undermine their own cause.

I mean, seriously -- Pamela's in Oakland? That's whose windows you chose to vandalize last night? They may be "your streets," as your chant insists ... but those are our pancakes.

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