By Brian K. Sullivan
Sept. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Pittsburgh police threw tear gas and blasted high-pitched sounds to disperse hundreds of protesters marching toward downtown in a demonstration aimed at today’s meeting of the Group of 20 nations.
“Here comes the cavalry,” one of a smaller group of protesters and performance artists said shortly before 2 p.m., as Arsenal Park filled with demonstrators wearing black masks and carrying banners reading, “Eat the rich.”
After shouts of encouragement, they began marching in defiance of police warnings that the assembly was unlawful. Police tossed smoke and gas canisters and set off whistles to try to break up the march, while protesters overturned trash bins and broke the window in a police car.
Stores and offices were boarded up and highways and mass transit lines were shut today as President Barack Obama and the leaders of 18 other industrialized or developing countries, along with the European Union, convened in the western Pennsylvania city.
The group seeks to cement a plan to force banks to curb leverage, hold more equity capital and keep a greater pool of assets that can be easily traded. U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chinese President Hu Jintao are among those attending.
‘Let’s Crash It’
“The G-20 is in the house, throwing a party,” said a statement on the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project’s Web site. “Let’s crash it. We, the concerned residents of Pittsburgh, are asking individuals and organizations that are seeking a better world to come and show their opposition to these undemocratic, closed meetings.”
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, world monetary policy and climate change are among the rallying points for protesters seeking the eyes and ears of world leaders and media, organizers said.
“I want to wake them up and let them know that there is something that is going on here that’s wrong,” said a demonstrator wearing a black hooded sweatshirt.
For much of the morning, the protest was small and peaceful, with a demonstrator dressed up like a baby seal and another in the crowd of 200 wearing a T-shirt that read, “I believe the Bible is true, ask me why.” Riot police adjusted their helmets when a larger black-clad group arrived.
Amid the chanting, clapping and banging of drums, an ice- cream truck tinkled, “It’s a small world after all.”
The U.S. Secret Service imposed street, waterway and airspace security zones around the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, where many summit activities take place today and tomorrow, according to the agency’s Web site.
Pittsburgh designated three areas for demonstrations to take place in addition to the marches, according to police. Two are across the Allegheny River from the Lawrence Center, and the third location is across the street.
Fourteen members of the Greenpeace environmental group were arrested yesterday for hanging or attempting to place banners on bridges, police said. All were charged with conspiracy and other counts, said Mike Brooks, a spokesman for the city.
“Thousands will be flooding the streets of Pittsburgh to take direct action against the G-20 and its destructive policies,” said the Web site of the Mobilization for Climate Justice, one of the groups planning to march today. “It’s plain to see, capitalism means crisis.”
At least 70 groups have endorsed the march, billed as non- violent, sponsored by the Thomas Merton Center Anti-War Committee. One group, the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project, has called for unsanctioned protests tomorrow morning.
“The action working group of the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project has drawn up a list of 100 potential targets,” according to the group’s Web site.
In June, a committee of U.K. lawmakers criticized the London Metropolitan Police for its handling of protests at April’s G-20 summit there. Ten thousand officers were called in to handle 35,000 demonstrators, and the report by Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee said some were untrained and inexperienced. One man died.
About half of the 2,000 people employed at Alcoa Inc.’s offices on the Pittsburgh riverfront were working from home today, said Kevin Lowery, a spokesman for the largest U.S. aluminum producer, which has its headquarters in New York. United States Steel Corp., the largest U.S.-based steelmaker, wasn’t disclosing the status of its Pittsburgh corporate offices for security reasons, said a spokeswoman, Erin DiPietro.
Federated Investors Inc. emptied its Pittsburgh headquarters near the convention center and moved 800 employees to two other locations, said a spokeswoman, Meghan McAndrew. She wouldn’t say how much the shift cost the company, which oversaw $401.8 billion in investments for its clients as of June 30.