The week of the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh opened Sunday with what was expected -- protests -- but they were characterized by what some dared not expect -- peace. Still, problems have occurred in the last several days that need to be addressed before more hectic times arrive.
It was the police, not the protesters, who didn't handle the dress rehearsal of streets protests well. A march by several hundred protesters was turned away from using the bypass under the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, a public thoroughfare which they had a right to enter as a result of a federal court order handed down last Friday.
A similar problem occurred during a march in the Hill District, which was briefly delayed at one spot despite the group having a valid permit. Witold Walczak, legal director for the state American Civil Liberties Union, accused the police of bungling their duties as a result of "sheer incompetence or something more insidious."
Yesterday, the ACLU yesterday filed a lawsuit on behalf of two groups, Three Rivers Climate Convergence and Seeds of Peace, alleging police harassment. U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster will hold a hearing today.
But this latest contretemps in court shouldn't completely deflect the notes of encouragement provided by both police and protesters Sunday.
In the Downtown march, a grandmotherly organizer of the faith-affiliated G 6 Billion Journey and Witness was the non-threatening contact with the police. Even though they were in the right, the marchers peacefully complied. Later, a police sergeant freely admitted the mistake and apologized. In the Hill District march, a discussion was all it took to right the problem.
These protests brought together citizens seeking jobs, economic justice and peace -- and it is sign of their sincerity that the peace was kept. While the police have a difficult job, it is in their interest too that people's rights are respected.