Arrested Developments | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The oddest fact about the 190 arrests during G-20 week: the more distant the summit, the more frequent the arrests. 

Only 21 people were arrested during the anarchists' march on Sept. 24. Nearly five times that many were arrested in Oakland during a later gathering only peripherally related to the summit. 

Blame it on police tactics imported for the summit but continued more than 24 hours after it was over, critics say. Specifically, activists say, blame a show of force that was out of proportion to the threat.

Blame it on people holding "un-sanctioned and un-permitted" assemblies, Pittsburgh Police say.

One other fact is not so odd: The farther removed each arrest was from the summit, the more likely the arrests involved not crimes against property or people ... but only that very encounter with police.


Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project march, Sept. 24

Police are taking credit for "minimal damage" to property during this non-permitted demonstration. And they're blaming most of the broken windows at banks and local businesses on one guy from California -- seeming to confirm the often-expressed fears about dangerous out-of-towners coming to Pittsburgh for the summit.

Among other arrestees, there were several felony charges of riot and aggravated assault. But most charges were failure to disperse and obstructing a highway.

Resistance project spokesperson Noah Williams calls the police response "state repression." 

Here and in other instances this past week, the arrestees were overwhelmingly white, male and young. But only two others arrested during the Sept. 24 march are from out of state, while 10 are from Pittsburgh. (Two have no address information.)

Perhaps most disturbing were two arrests that do not appear on the official docket.

At around 5:15 p.m., a small group of marchers turned left off of Baum Boulevard onto Enfield Street. Three Port Authority Police vehicles entered the street as well.

Then, an unmarked brown sedan pulled up beside them. Two men in black boots and camouflage fatigues, lacking visible insignia, rushed out of the back seat and snatched a young white male from the crowd, forcing him into the back seat. 

The car drove off in a cloud of OC gas. A single police officer in armor and gas mask backed into the cloud and disappeared, rifle held at his chest.

Another marcher, shouting in disbelief, was grabbed by uniformed police and cuffed against the hood of a Port Authority vehicle.

No arrest appears for any man on Enfield that day. The only arrest at a similar time occurred blocks away. 

"From my understanding that was a Tactical Response Team who apprehended this actor," wrote police spokesperson Diane Richard, in response to a query. "Actor was observed conducting some sort of illegal activity. I am not sure of the locations of occurrence [or] where the actor may have been first spotted." 

Richard had no other information, and Resistance members say they aren't missing any of their own.

Other arrests are less mysterious. Albert Petrarca, a veteran organizer, said he was tired of running when he sat down in front of a police vehicle and raised his hands in the peace sign on Penn Avenue at 34th Street. 

"Someone's got to do this," he says he concluded.

Pitt journalism student Anthony Brino was arrested next, while asking police for Petrarca's name as he took a photo, he says. National Lawyers Guild legal observer Will Gardella was then arrested for asking Brino for his name, he reports.

Both face charges of failure to disperse and obstructing a highway.


Schenley Plaza, Thursday night, Sept. 24

Upon release, Petrarca headed to Oakland's Schenley Plaza, where he found a gathering already confronted by police at 10 p.m.. 

"They weren't protesters at all," he says -- just curious onlookers. Until the OC gas arrived.

Max Thorn, a Colorado College student visiting friends at Carnegie Mellon University, had entered the plaza two hours earlier. He saw a line of riot police blocking the road to Phipps Conservatory, where a summit dinner had taken place, and had students congregating in front of it.

"No one was protesting anything," Thorn says. "The people were just there for entertainment." 

Then the police moved forward. 

"They started telling everyone to move and using their sticks," Thorn says. "I got hit in the back."

He left before the 47 arrests, mostly for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse, that would spark a much larger gathering the next night.


Schenley Plaza, Friday night, Sept. 25

A police release says officers showed up at Schenley in force that night because "it was learned that an un-sanctioned and un-permitted assembly" was set for 10 p.m., and that "numerous" Bic lighters had been purchased, and lighter fluid sought, that day.

Everyone at this gathering -- students and protesters, arrested or not -- tells essentially the same story. The plaza held fewer than 100 people -- half students, half anarchists playing duck, duck, goose. Hundreds of onlookers watched from across Forbes Avenue.

Police say demonstrators were ordered to disperse, and "[a]ll who did not comply ... were taken into custody and arrested." But by the time of the order to disperse, students and others say, police already had the plaza surrounded. Those exiting through a small gap in the line faced police at every turn. They looked for exits amid beanbag rounds, smoke and OC gas.

"We were always being peaceful," says Pete Shell, a Merton Center organizer of a permitted march earlier that day, which took place without incident. "They did not give us an opportunity to disperse." He was arrested along with 106 others, including a Post-Gazette reporter.

"That was political repression," Shell charges today. 

Anthony Brino was taking pictures there too -- and he was arrested again. 

"People started crashing through the bushes onto the Cathedral lawn," recalls Brino's roommate Anna Rasshivkina, also arrested. 

Pitt student Jesse Hanley found refuge in the nearby Holiday Inn, briefly. "There was just pop-pop-pop constantly, with the beanbags. I saw five people go down."

Everyone that night was charged with disorderly conduct, and all but one with failure to disperse. 

"We had professional public-order observers at all the events," says Beth Pittinger, head of the Citizens Police Review Board. They will help compile a report about police strategies during G-20, she says, and determine whether protest activity "justifies any of the police reaction."

click to enlarge A protester is arrested by officers from the Ohio Highway Patrol on 34th Street in Lawrenceville on Sept. 24. - CHARLIE DEITCH
Charlie Deitch
A protester is arrested by officers from the Ohio Highway Patrol on 34th Street in Lawrenceville on Sept. 24.

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