Friday, August 21, 2009

Ravenstahl Makes Everything OK for G-20?? ** [MUCHLY UPDATED, SATURDAY EDITION]

The headline reads, Mayor to grant all G-20 protest permits, which would include the ever-symbolic Point State Park -- only hitch is, protesters will not be able to camp overnight, and would have to disassemble all their infrastructure nightly. Meanwhile, proposed legislative restrictions on things like masks and PVC pipe would only be enforced if "used in commission of a crime".

This sounds too good to be true somehow, but wow. [**-UPDATES: Maybe it is. See below]

A spokesperson for the Thomas Merton Center, which has been sort-of convening the organization of the protest groups' efforts to lobby for permits, says so far this is news to them.

This from Vic Walczak of the ACLU, on the permits:

The devil is in the details. We haven't received any actual permits and we're already hearing they are cutting back on what was requested. Until we receive actual permits and see terms we are being cautious. That said, a qualified yes is certainly better than an unqualified no, which is what we received last week.

On the Mayor's legislation, and whether a stated intent "not to enforce unless" matters:

Legislation defines crimes very broadly as illegal activity. We need to do our legal research to figure out whether the proposed bills are constitutional.


The bills also ban protesters from using "noxious substances" against police including animal or human waste, rotten eggs, acid, gasoline, gases and alcohol. (P-G, Timothy McNulty)

That much is good. Though I'm surprised that's not illegal already.

He (the Mayor) said all five groups seeking protest permits around the Sept. 24 and 25 summit of international leaders will be given conditional approvals for events in Downtown, the South Side, North Side and the Strip District. (ibid)

"Conditional" being the very operative word. It is widely suspected that the Secret Service will force City officials to revoke or dramatically curtail these permits. It is also somewhat widely suspected that City officials already know this, and are granting conditional permits in order to look like the "good cops" in the situation for a little while.

Two ordinances prohibit masks for the purpose of aiding in the commission of unlawful activity — including gas masks, which can be worn unless they're used to evade police — and items that protesters could use to chain themselves to buildings, evade police or inhibit movement of emergency-response equipment. (Trib, Adam Brandolph)

That seems like a distinction without a difference -- "unless they're used to evade police".

Imagine: Citizens go somewhere (or do something) that police in the field deem impermissible. Police order citizens to disperse -- which in itself triggers the "unlawful activity" clause for the remainder; at least some citizens do not immediately disperse, and many who try to do so have nowhere immediately available to go. Police gas citizens to protect selves before wading in. Citizens don gas masks in self-defense. Gas causes confusion and fog of war. Police target mask-clad citizens and treat them with a heightened presumption of criminal intent. Citizens see mates they view as innocent getting "abused" and decide to ... you get the idea.

Without prejudice to any particular aspect of this proposed legislation, I know that protest groups are formally calling upon the City and other authorities to adopt "Use of Force guidelines" for policing units to abide by. This seems reasonable.

If citizens are being handed a special set of game rules outside of what is ordinary in America, they should also know what to expect in this new situation out of their police. Everyone should know as much as possible. This isn't a war.


  1. This issue was a little overblown. Given the always measured, cautious pace of preps for events like this, and the severe restraints on local authorities by the feds, it was a given that it would take time, and it was also a given that it would get done.

    The protest groups were right to keep it on the front burner. But it's not "pressure" that got anything done. Just the slow march of a massive planning process.

  2. Bail Out the People wants to camp in city parks.

  3. This issue was WAYYYY overblown.

  4. these who are seeking these permits should have to pay for all city services.... police, sanitation, medics, and public works.

    taxpayers should not have to pay for these wanna be hippies to do their thing.

  5. Better to pay for this than Fumo's butler.

  6. Here comes Matt dismissing a valid issue.....

  7. It isn't over(blown) until Vic Walczak says it's over.

    Yinzers never learn.

  8. If you do research on the "Miami Model" of addressing protests of any sort, you can understand the concern of peaceful protestors.

    You can also understand the recruited role that mainstream media plays,(Marty Griffin) in attempting to incite and garner support for police action of this type. You can understand why protest groups are asking for "use of force guidelines"

  9. I suspected this was a good cop response which would be great if we could count on Zober to advocate for his citizens with the feds or work with Michael Huss to address the use of force guidelines. Of course, that won't happen.

    Anon 4:10, as a Northside, I would be THRILLED if the City would require the Steelers and Pirates to pay (and pass on fees to their fans) for the use of our streets, parking spaces, public urination, police protection, etc. Let's start with damage that stretches for months before we hone in on a few days worth of inconvenience, okay?

  10. Pirates also? How much trouble can six people cause?