Reaching the Summit | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Political activists are already "thinking of coming early" to plan demonstrations against a September gathering of world economic leaders in Pittsburgh, says David Meieran. But "there's been no formal anything yet" concerning specific plans to demonstrate against the G20 Summit, cautions the Squirrel Hill veteran of past summits. Just "lots of excitement and trepidation."

World-trade summits attract a wide range of demonstrators -- including anarchists, anti-war activists and those concerned with environmental or economic justice.

Lawyer Mike Healey, who often handles protester arrests, says he's already fielded numerous calls discussing legal strategies. He and two other lawyers, including the state American Civil Liberties Union Legal Director Vic Walczak, are preparing to deal with possible protest roadblocks.

"The groups around the [Thomas] Merton Center are talking" about G20 strategies, Healey says. The Center, a Garfield social-justice organization, often leads anti-war marches and hosts activist groups.

Anarchists in Pittsburgh Organizing Group, who also spearhead local protests, are so far mum. A newer group, the Greater Pittsburgh Anarchist Collective, didn't respond to inquiries. But two other national gatherings already scheduled to come to Pittsburgh this summer will doubtless aid anti-G20 planning. The first National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations will be held at La Roche College July 10-12, and the Crimethinc Convergence, an annual anarchist gathering, will take place here July 20-26.

Meieran, a former member of both the Merton Center's Anti-War Committee and POG, plans to start a local information clearinghouse for activists.

"No local groups or even national groups have made commitments yet," he emphasizes, "but I've been in conversation with lots of people." Protest activities will run the gamut "from grassroots and outreach education to public forums and permitted marches and demonstrations, plus [un-permitted] non-violent direct action."

What will the police response be? Local law-enforcement will join federal agencies, overseen by the Secret Service, during the summit. Pittsburgh Police referred questions to city Public Safety Director Michael Huss, who did not respond by press time. County spokesperson Kevin Evanto said county agencies would defer to the White House with any questions.

But local groups should also expect everything from surveillance to infiltration, Meieran believes.

"It's also plausible to expect more forms of pre-emptive legal action on both sides," he concludes. Local officials may pass ordinances supportive of civil disobedience, or powers granting police the authority to constrain protests. Such measures are often successfully challenged in court, he notes -- but only after the event is over.

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