Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Council Discusses How to Keep Summit Non-Violent

Pittsburgh City Council held a post-agenda meeting regarding the G20 summit today. The goal was to learn what the city should do to prevent violent protests and injuries to peaceful protesters.

Sam Rosenfeld is the chairman of The Densus Group, a consulting firm that specializes in crowd management and public order. He says a key to limiting liability costs and injuries is avoiding mass breakups of protests and targeting specifically any protester who is engaging in violence. City Councilman Bill Peduto expressed his concern for city residents after finding fliers that have been posted in his council district that advocate opposition to capitalism and the G20.

Also at the meeting were representatives from the Pennsylvania ACLU and National Lawyers Guild, who talked about the history of G20 events and other large-scale meetings and conventions. Heidi Boghosian of the National Lawyers Guild told the Council that if police are present in full riot gear, protesters are more likely to feel threatened.

But Councilman Jim Motznik says he doesn't want to send police into the streets unprepared. Rosenfeld agrees, saying there will be a small group of protesters who only want to destroy the city and cause violence. Rosenfeld says while opening a dialogue with protesters is a good step to ensure peaceful protests, small pockets of people will try to cause the police to react violently. He says identifying those protesters quickly will be the best possible way to ensure that no peaceful demonstrators are injured or arrested.

Casey Capitolo, a social justice advocate, submitted a petition for a public hearing today to open a dialogue between City Council and the groups that have planned on protesting or holding marches. Capitolo says the vast majority of protesters that will be present for the G20 do not want to incite any violence, but just want to be heard.

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