This September’s protests against the G20 summit in Pittsburgh offer a rare strategic opportunity to reassert anarchist struggle in the new era of economic recession, ecological collapse, and liberal government. We’ve prepared a summary of why these demonstrations are important, who is organizing them, what is planned, and how to get involved.
The recession has been acknowledged for a full year now; capitalism has been twisting the knife for centuries. As survival gets harder and the last illusions are dispelled, many people are looking around for alternatives. But few anarchists are presenting them, leaving the door open for fascists and other opportunists to capitalize on popular distress. It’s ironic that anarchist opposition to capitalist institutions—and anarchist emphasis on alternate lifestyles making the best of poverty—reached their peak a decade ago during a period of apparent prosperity, when they could be so much more persuasive today.
Since Obama’s election, some of us have waited impatiently for a chance to bring opposition to global capitalism back into the public eye. On September 24 and 25, the G20, twenty of the world’s most powerful governments, are convening in Pittsburgh, with the intention of presenting themselves as the ones who can solve the same crisis they have forced upon the rest of us. The summit will take place at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, supposedly “the world’s first and largest green convention center”; meanwhile, as if to dramatize the complicity between liberal governments, ecological devastation, and working class suffering, the International Coal Conference is scheduled to take place in Pittsburgh the preceding three days, September 21-23. This opportunity to connect the dots is being handed to anarchists on a platter—the question is whether we have the numbers, networks, and momentum to take advantage of it.
The G20 summit is calculated to cement the impression that Obama and his cronies run the only game in town when it comes to addressing economic and ecological crisis. It’s a media spectacle, but it has concrete effects: it enables the right wing to frame themselves as the opponents of the prevailing order, while isolating all who desire a different opposition. Effective anarchist resistance in Pittsburgh could shatter the illusion that Obama and his class represent the longings of the public for a better world, focusing attention on more radical responses to the present crises. It would show that anarchists are not simply the extremist fringe of the anti-Bush, anti-war movement, but that we have an entirely different program—perhaps the only hope for working and unemployed people, wild ecosystems, even life itself.
The Backstory on Anarchist Organizing in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh has a rich history of anarchist activity, extending back well into the 19th century. More recently, the Pittsburgh Organizing Group [POG] has made a name for itself as a long-running explicitly anarchist organization. Since summer of 2002, POG has taken the lead in the anti-war and global justice movements, utilizing every tactic from unpermitted marches and lockdowns to community picnics, and participating in mass mobilizations from the 2002 anti-IMF “People’s Strike” to last summer’s protests against the Republican National Convention. POG also carries out regular trainings, puts on speaking engagements, and publishes the semiannual journal Steel City Revolt, which sets the bar extremely high for local publications. In short, POG is one of the few effective anarchist organizing bodies to persist from the so-called “anti-globalization” era through the anti-war era into the Obama age.
POG has joined with several other local Pittsburgh organizations to build a broad-based mobilization against the September summit, forming the Pittsburgh G20 Resistance Project. This coalition has joined other groups organizing against the G20 to craft the Pittsburgh Principles, a solidarity agreement modeled on the historic St. Paul Principles from the mobilization against the 2008 RNC.
As in prior mass mobilizations, volunteers are organizing various forms of infrastructure to support protesters. A group is coordinating housing for out-of-town participants. There is a legal number to report harassment and arrests, and a legal support group has formed to support arrestees and counter state repression. There are also groups focusing on providing food, preparatory trainings, and medical care in the street.
Days of Action
The Three Rivers Climate Convergence is organizing actions against the International Coal Conference September 21-23.
The main event on the first day of the G20 is an unpermitted mass march on the building housing the summit meetings. This march will include contingents focusing on workers, students, and climate issues, as well as various musical groups and other feeder marches. It is a space for a diversity of tactics manifesting opposition to global capitalism.
The march begins at 2:30 p.m. in Arsenal Park, at 40th Street & Penn Avenue, in Lawrenceville.
Out-of-town participants should study the terrain the march will pass through in advance.
Capitalism is not simply imposed by a few heads of state; it is a decentralized system perpetuated at every level of society. Accordingly, on the second day of the summit, actions will take place throughout Pittsburgh targeting institutions that perpetrate the daily oppression and devastation of the capitalist economy. The Pittsburgh G20 Resistance Project has prepared a menu of suitable locations for such actions. Pick a location, plan your action, and come to Pittsburgh!
The idea is that all the actions will conclude at 11:30 a.m. sharp, whether they last for four hours or four minutes up to that moment.
How To Get Involved
Form an affinity group, discuss what you’re ready to do, make plans for Thursday and Friday together, and come to Pittsburgh September 21-26. Consider organizing a fundraiser in advance and a speaking event upon your arrival home, to draw on community support and spread awareness of why you are going.
For more information about the mobilization: www.resistg20.org
Visit the Pittsburgh G2O Resistance convergence center at 4374 Murray Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15217. It’s at the corner of Murray and Hazelwood in Greenfield.