Balko: Scenes From A Crackdown
Please read all of this recap report from Radley Balko on the police response to protests at the Pittsburgh G20 meeting.
Having lived in the Washington, D.C. area for the better part of the last 10 years, I've attended my share of protests, though, again as a resident of the Beltway, I've spent far more time trying to avoid them and the traffic nightmares they spawn. Among the various classes of protesters—pro-lifers, environmentalists, anti-war activists, and now Tea Partiers—the most destructive are easily the anti-globalization/anarchist protesters. So when police clashed with anti-globalization protesters last weekend in Pittsburgh, one could assume that most altercations represented justified police responses to overzealous protesters.
But a number of disturbing images, videos, and witness accounts have come out of Pittsburgh, as well as from similar high-stakes political events in recent years, that reveal the disquieting ease with which authorities are willing to crush dissent—and at the very sorts of events where the right to dissent is the entire purpose of protecting free speech. That is, events where influential policymakers meet to make high-level decisions with far-reaching consequences.
On the Friday afternoon before the G20 kicked into high gear, a student at the University of Pittsburgh sent me this photo, which he says he snapped on his way back from class.
It depicts a University of Pittsburgh police officer directing traffic at a roadblock. What's troubling is what he's wearing: camouflage military fatigues. It's difficult to understand why a police officer working for an urban police department would need to wear camouflage, especially while patrolling an economic summit. He's a civilian police officer, dressed like a soldier. The symbolism is clear, and it affects the attitudes of the both the cops wearing the clothes and the people they're policing.
He wasn't alone. A number of police departments from across the country came to Pittsburgh to help police the summit, and nearly all were dressed in paramilitary garb. In one widely-circulated video from the summit, several police officers dressed entirely in camouflage emerge from an unmarked car, apprehend a young backpack-toting protester, stuff him into the car, and then drive off. It evoked the sort of "disappearance" one might envision in a Latin American junta or Soviet Block country. Matt Drudge linked to the video, describing the officers in it as members of the military. They weren't, though it's certainly easy to understand how someone might make that mistake...
The video embedded above is also from Pittsburgh G20 police activity.
Do you really think increasingly-desperate Government officials are going to tell their militarized police and private security forces to stand idle while angry Americans call them 'morons'?