Observations on the world today.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Observations on a Trip to Pittsburgh 

It’s taken me a few days to post this. I have something in common with George W. Bush. We were both in dahntahn (that’s downtown to the uninitiated) Pittsburgh at 6:30 PM on April 19, 2004. I was there because my five-year-old daughter had been accidentally burned. (She’s home now, by the way.) Bush - on the other hand - was there to promote his God-given right to burn five-year-old Iraqi children.

What happened was that I had heard on the radio that W. would be coming in at 5 PM, so I intentionally waited until after 6 to leave the hospital. However, I had not taken into account that he would be in the convention center speaking just as I would be passing the building. I turned off Liberty Ave., onto Grant Street toward Ft. Duquesne Blvd., and the road was blocked by a police barricade. I was redirected down Smallman St., and I turned on a side road to Penn Ave.

Something else I didn’t realize was that Penn Ave. was the street selected for the free-speech zone. So, Bush came in on Ft. Duquesne Blvd., and the protesters were two blocks away on Penn Ave. in a smallish corral - unseen, unheard and unnoticed by Bush. I was momentarily tempted to pull over and join the protests, but luckily thought better of it. There seemed to be very few protesters, and I saw almost as many police and reporters. The protesters had signs and banners, but seemed very disorganized. Traffic was slow, so I was able to make a leisurely observation. I became aware that many of the protesters were dressed as Ninjas. It was sort of embarrassing. They looked like the monkey warriors from Disney’s Kim Possible .
Then suddenly, right in front of me, it was 1969 all over again. I saw a policeman grab a protester by the arm, and another protester jumped in and grabbed the first protester’s free arm and engaged in a human tug-of-war.

Now here’s the thing. When protesting, and agitating, at least have the strength of conviction to go to jail. It’s fine to lay down and be dead-weight so that you are not participating in your arrest. But resisting arrest and struggling is an actual crime separate and independent from free expression. It’s the stuff of bad Cops episodes.

Then the next day, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I learned what was actually going on:
Earlier in the protest, a line of officers used their bicycles to push back a group of young people carrying signs who stepped off the curb. Most wore black hoods and masks.

Tim Vining, executive director of the Thomas Merton Center, a local social justice group that organized the protest, said the masked people were part of the Pittsburgh Organizing Group, which opposes authority.

T.J. Hicks, Bloomfield, said he and others wore masks so they could not be "singled out." He said he would likely protest any president.
So these people were not protesting Bush. They were protesting authority. They’d have put on their black Harlequin costumes to protest Clinton, the pope or a convention of bossy mothers. These people didn’t have a message, and I don’t think they were particularly honest. Also from the PG article.
Tiffany Way, 22, said her friend, Nina Trimbath, was arrested because she questioned one of the other arrests.

"All she did was ask why," said Way, of Alum Bank, Bedford County.
If these were the Ninjas I saw playing push-me-pull-you; no, she didn’t just ask why.

Kids, do us all a favor. Leave the protesting to the professionals.


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