Final Dispatch from G-20

I would have written this on Friday but I, like everyone else in this newsroom, was exhausted from three days of work following our world leaders around town and documenting their every move.

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Police officers: Ready for any trouble during the “People’s March”. There was none to speak of.

Well, I have to say while I am glad we “welcomed the world”, I glad that Pittsburgh is back to normal. As I mentioned last week, I spent enough time in a downtown devoid of people to realize that it’s the people that give the city its character and personality. It’s great to see this city if you are a foreign leader, but it would be better to meet the folks that built this place.

Speaking of which, there was a hot rumor that Obama ducked out before his address Friday to the media to grab some Primanti’s sandwiches for the White House press corps: the same group that laughed when they heard Pittsburgh was going to host the Summit. They did not get any.

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Chinese protestors: Silent, but speaking volumes

For me, Friday was once again spent field anchoring from the North Shore which wound up being the perfect spot to get a front row view of the “People’s March”. The biggest protest of G20 began in Oakland, made its way through downtown before crossing the 7th street bridge. After Thursday’s violent outburst, Friday’s protest was much more orderly, calm and ultimately successful in getting its message across in my opinion.

That didn’t mean there were some things that left me scratching my head. I have some female protestor tell me how this was the media’s fault and we were the root of all evil. I appreciate the commentary. Then, there was the college kid on the bike who was wondering what a “sports” guy was doing out at the parade. 

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Then, there was the woman and her high school age son from Slippery Rock. She told me she wanted her son to see the protest, hopefully open his mind to the world around him. She had been involved in protests as a young person and wanted her son to see this first-hand. I think the young man gained a better understanding of  political discourse in this country.

Perhaps no group was more powerful in the march than a group of Chinese citizens holding banners opposing the denial of human rights. While other marchers yelled, chanted and shouted, they quietly held their signs and marched in silence. You got the feeling these were not young people who had chosen a cause, you sensed these folks may have been intimately involved and perhaps had a family member suffer at the hands of their alleged oppressor.

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Protestors taking aim at what they call the “Police State”

As powerful and moving as Friday’ s march was – even though more than one protestor told me it was kind of boring – that is how disappointing Friday’s events in Oakland were. What took place on the Pitt campus showed how what began as a first amendment right exercise turned into just a bad scene that could have gotten easily out of hand. Already, there have been charges that police used excessive force … and video of  “protestors” taunting officers.

What I think we did learn during the G20 protests is that the first amendment is not always easy to defend – or easy to use. However, its the basis for our democracy and must always be defended – even if we don’t agree with how its being used. At the same time, it really shouldn’t be abused. Just because you can protest doesn’t mean you should. If you have a legitimate cause, get out there and defend it. But if you are just there to cause chaos, go home and destroy your own house. In the end, violence only drowns out everyone’s message.

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