Militarization of Police

Scenes From a Crackdown

Police overkill at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh


Having lived in the Washington, D.C. area for the better part of the last 10 years, I've attended my share of protests, though, again as a resident of the Beltway, I've spent far more time trying to avoid them and the traffic nightmares they spawn. Among the various classes of protesters—pro-lifers, environmentalists, anti-war activists, and now Tea Partiers—the most destructive are easily the anti-globalization/anarchist protesters. So when police clashed with anti-globalization protesters last weekend in Pittsburgh, one could assume that most altercations represented justified police responses to overzealous protesters.

But a number of disturbing images, videos, and witness accounts have come out of Pittsburgh, as well as from similar high-stakes political events in recent years, that reveal the disquieting ease with which authorities are willing to crush dissent—and at the very sorts of events where the right to dissent is the entire purpose of protecting free speech. That is, events where influential policymakers meet to make high-level decisions with far-reaching consequences.

On the Friday afternoon before the G20 kicked into high gear, a student at the University of Pittsburgh sent me this photo, which he says he snapped on his way back from class.

It depicts a University of Pittsburgh police officer directing traffic at a roadblock. What's troubling is what he's wearing: camouflage military fatigues. It's difficult to understand why a police officer working for an urban police department would need to wear camouflage, especially while patrolling an economic summit. He's a civilian police officer, dressed like a soldier. The symbolism is clear, and it affects the attitudes of the both the cops wearing the clothes and the people they're policing.

He wasn't alone. A number of police departments from across the country came to Pittsburgh to help police the summit, and nearly all were dressed in paramilitary garb. In one widely-circulated video from the summit, several police officers dressed entirely in camouflage emerge from an unmarked car, apprehend a young backpack-toting protester, stuff him into the car, and then drive off. It evoked the sort of "disappearance" one might envision in a Latin American junta or Soviet Block country. Matt Drudge linked to the video, describing the officers in it as members of the military. They weren't, though it's certainly easy to understand how someone might make that mistake.

Another video shows a police unit with what seems to be a handcuffed protester. Officers surround the protester and prop him up, at which point another officer snaps what appears to be a trophy photo. (YouTube has since removed the video, citing a terms of use violation.) Other Twitter feeds and uploaded photos and videos claim police fired tear gas canisters into dorm rooms, used sound cannons, and fired bean bags and rubber bullets. One man was arrested for posting the locations of riot police on Twitter.

Emily Tanner, a grad student at the University of Pittsburgh who describes herself as a "capitalist" and who doesn't agree with the general philosophy of the anti-globalization protesters, has been covering the fallout on her blog. The most egregious police actions seemed to take place on Friday September 25, when police began ordering students who were in public spaces to disperse, despite the fact that they had broken no laws. Those who moved too slowly, even from public spaces on their own campus or in front of their dorms, were arrested.

Lucy Steigerwald, a libertarian student at Chatham University (and daughter of Reason contributor Bill Steigerwald), describes the scene via email: "I'm truly disappointed in my city's reaction to Friday night….hundreds of riot cops attack[ed] Pittsburgh's biggest, most jockish, mainstream college. And people still have no sympathy for peaceful protesters or curious college students on their campus. They just feel comfortable and confident that people who have the right to use force on other people are always in the right when they do so. It's pretty scary and disappointing that they're so trusting with people's right to assembly being at the whim of the government.

A University of Pittsburgh spokesman said the tactic was to break up crowds that "had the potential of disrupting normal activities, traffic flow, egress and the like…Much of the arrests last night had to do with failure to disperse when ordered." Note that a group of people needn't have actually broken any laws, only possessed the "potential" to do so, at which point not moving quickly enough for the liking of the police on the scene could result in an arrest. That standard is essentially a license for the police to arrest anyone, anywhere in the city at any time, regardless of whether those under arrest have actually done anything wrong.

Pennsylvania ACLU Legal Director Vic Walczak said the problem is that police didn't attempt to manage the protests, they simply suppressed them. In the process, they rounded up not only innocent protesters, but innocent students who had nothing to do with the protests. "The reason it's bizarre is it seemed to focus almost exclusively on peaceful demonstrators," Walczak said on September 26. "Police can't indiscriminately arrest people. On [Friday] night they didn't even have the excuse of property damage going on or any illegal activity. It's really inexplicable."

It certainly can't be easy to both keep order and protect civil liberties at these sorts of events. But that doesn't mean police and city officials shouldn't be expected to try. A few unruly protesters (and there was very little property damage at the G20 summit) doesn't give the police license to crack down on every young person in the general vicinity, nor should it give the city free rein to suppress all dissent.

The leaders of the world's 20 largest economies and the press covering them came to Pittsburgh last weekend. It's unfortunate that the images that emerged were not of a society that values free expression and constitutional rights, but one that at big events gives its police the sort of power to impose order normally seen in authoritarian states. In all, 190 people were arrested, including at least two journalists. One, a reporter from the left-leaning IndyMedia, says her camera was returned broken, with her footage of the protests and police reaction deleted.

Unfortunately, the projection of overwhelming force at such events is becoming more common. At last year's Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, police conducted peremptory raids on the homes of protesters before the convention. Journalists who inquired about the legitimacy of the raids and arrests made during the convention were also arrested. In all, 672 people were arrested, including at least 39 journalists. The arrest of Amy Goodman of Democracy Now was captured on a widely-viewed video. She was charged with "conspiracy to riot." Those charges were dropped. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported in February that 442 of the 672 who were arrested had their charges either dropped or dismissed.

These are precisely the kinds of events where free speech and the freedom to protest is in most need of protection. Instead, the more high-profile the event, the more influential the players, and the more high-stakes the decision being made, the more determined police and political officials seem to be in making sure dissent is kept as far away from the decision makers as possible. Or silenced entirely.

Radley Balko is a senior editor at Reason magazine.

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  1. Camouflage is no longer about keeping yourself hidden. It’s a power play.

  2. At what point does arresting a large percentage of protesters and releasing them later without charge constitute a prior restraint on speech? It’s one thing to keep people from blocking traffic or from actually committing violence to person or property; it’s something else altogether to just remove people so that the event doesn’t have too much unseemly protesting going on.

    1. Go ahead and file an appeal, bitch. I’m sure it will be heard as soon as the summit’s over. In the meantime,


      1. Welcome to the police state!

        Seriously, people in this country used to have common sense and balls. WTF happened!?

        When you have police taking action like this it’s the classical definition of martial law. And considering that each time they do things like this it just gets worse and worse, what do you think our country is gonna be like in a few years? Now they are deploying troops on our streets, a clear violation of constitutional law, yet, nobody seems to care or notice. I sure did when they asked me to get out of my car so they could search it and me to ensure I’m not a terrorist, nevermind me and my wife and daughter were just going to the gas station, nope, I had to be detained by not cops, but military.

        Again, where are the balls people, where are the brains? Are we all just so dumb we can’t see a rouge government forming right in front of us?

        All these cops are guilty of treason, and so are thier superiors, and most of the government in general. Read, get educated, and don’t just deny deny deny. The truth will make you sick.

        We the people are the only ones that can stop this…

        1. Balls won’t save you against guns.

          1. Might if you can get on camera.

        2. Would this be a situation where a class action lawsuit would be in order. Perhaps where if the suit is won, the people would give their settlement to a civil rights group of their choice.

          Would something like this actually do any good?

      2. You’re a f___kin’ a-hole! There’s no need to wear camouflage. It’s just to feel empowered and put fear in the people. You’re controlled by the elite.

  3. hotsauce – exactly – they wanted people to think they were soldiers. I’ve been to downtown Pittsburgh, there’s really not that much green space to make that camouflage useful.

    1. They didn’t have enough advance notice to pickup a set of Urban Cammo?

  4. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.[Emphasis added for the mentally infirm.]

    When two thirds of those arressted are released without charges, something is obviously wrong with the crowd management strategy.

    1. But J sub D, Congress hasn’t made any laws about this. It’s the police just doing it extralegally. And let’s make up police powers and charges to justify it after the fact.

    2. When two thirds of those arressted are released without charges, they were just not trying as hard as the successful one third.

      FTFY 🙂

  5. Unfortunately, people think like this:

    Where are the facts to say they weren’t legitimate charges? Don’t you think that would have been significant enough to mention in the article. I am not saying the cops weren’t being opportunistic. You have to ask yourself though what could I have done to avoid putting myself in this position. The answer is not break the law.

    I’d echo Steigerwald’s sentiments that it’s “scary and disappointing,” although it’s not surprising. Remember, if you aren’t breaking the law you shouldn’t be worried about police.

    In other news, the MSM is covering the whole dogs-as-?berwitnesses fiasco in Texas.

    1. You have to ask yourself though what could I have done to avoid putting myself in this position.

      That quote sounds a lot like someone with battered wife syndrome.

    2. If police aren’t doing anything wrong they don’t need to worry about being photoed/videoed.

  6. Your freedom ends where my city’s need to promote its convention center begins.

    1. Well sure, that’s what the founding fathers taught.

  7. Hippy Lover.

  8. well, you are in midst of a tyranny exposed. That is the style of dictatorships surpressing any kind of resistance to government activities, showing force for intimidation, next is shooting peaceful protester as your country already has experienced in the 60/70ties. What is next?

  9. I really do not understand why these things are run so horribly. Why don’t cities who host these events treat them like events rather then a war zone?

    It is not as if they do not expect the protesters to come…why don’t they set up protest parades and treat it like a city event?

    Why isn’t the mayor and city officials on the TV and radio a week ahead of time asking its citizens to respect their own city?
    In DC they seem pretty well equipped for protests. There is no reason why other cities could not prepare for these sort of things.

    I realize that the character of the protesters can have an effect, but a good public relations campaign and good event planning could easily cut down on the property damage and violence.

    1. what violence? Oh, you must be talking about the military police vs. the peaceful protesters. Someone needs to get educated… Try infowars, it’s a good crash course on the tyrrany in the good ol’ usa. Or maybe research the constitution, you’d surprised how many laws are being broken be the police and government officials…

      1. I really do not see who you are argueing with…

        I totally agree the police and city officials are breaking the law and disregarding the constitution…but i am also pointing out that their unlawful and unconstitutional tactics produce worse results then other tactics. Protests are planned in DC and they go off without gassing crowds and mass arrests and broken Starbucks windows.

    2. I’ve been to Prague for the IMF meeting some six years ago, and I’ve seen the war zone, which the cops couldn’t handle because they were unprepared. The protesters were well organized, plentiful and highly aggressive. When I saw the street battles, I was surprised that the cops withheld from using live ammo to regain control over th situation. I also remember watching similar protests in Seattle on TV at around the same time. The protesters have built a certain reputation, and I’m not surprised that Pittsburgh all but declared martial law. That doesn’t mean I endorse the actions of the police, but I don’t believe they were ill-prepared for the G20 protests. If anything, they were inflexible or unwilling to scale down when they didn’t encounter the number of protesters they expected.

      1. I agree. It seems that being prepared was justified. Their reaction to the actual events on the ground, however, were of the “I have a hammer, where’s the nail?” variety.

      2. It’s called Problem, Reaction, Solution.

        The Anarchists that show up to these events are infested with agent provocatuers of the state. Usually intell agents, police officers, special forces, or a combination of the three.

        The infiltrated anarchists are allowed to run around with immunity destroying property while the police do nothing. This is the Problem that is presented to the unknowing public who are not aware of the ruse.

        The Reaction from the public is for the police to do something about the destruction of property.

        The police then have their justification to implement a Solution. The solution is to crack down on the legitimate peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders, while letting the provocatuers go free.

        These are highly compartmentalized operations with the majority of the police not even realizing that they are part of a bigger operation with more sinister goals.

        This tactic is used to justify the existence of a police state. In other words, it is used train the public that the wheeled tanks, LRADS, pepper spray, M-16’s, police state surveillance and tazers are there keep us safe.

        Check out

        is another video. In this one the Quebec provincial police were forced to admit that three of their officers disguised themselves as demonstrators.

        Notice the rocks in their hands… They were trying to instigate a riot in order to justify violence against old men and women.

        Welcome to the North American Police State.

  10. Good article.

    Check this one out…

    Militarized G-20 Police Take Over Pittsburgh Street; Bicycle Police Mace Onlookers

    There are NO protesters present AT ALL and yet the cops begin MACING a handful of curious onlookers. A dispersal order, which says to leave the “immediate vicinity”, is off in the distance and thus not clearly directed at the onlookers.

    1. Holy fuck. At 2:22 in that video, when the camera zoom is directed down the street, it’s almost impossible to believe this is happening in an American city.

  11. A man who posted police locations during the summit to Twitter was arrested by PA police and had his home ransacked by the FBI last week because of his tweeting. He was charged with “hindering prosecution.” (Is that a crime? Isn’t that bread-and-butter for defense attorneys?) (Via @MHDiaries)

  12. He’s a civilian police officer, dressed like a soldier.

    Simply require the uniform to incorporate pink ruffles.

    This would help keep the Rambo wannabes off the force, and have a calming effect on the assemblage.

  13. I liked the article about the arrested Tweeter. Particularly the bit about how “They seized computers, political writings and anarchist literature.”

    I was about to feel sorry for the guy. I mean, if he’d just had guns, drugs, and explosives, I could have thought he was innocent. But political writings…clearly this guy was too dangerous to be left free.

    1. Wasn’t it Stalin who said “Ideas are more dangerous than guns. If we do not allow our enemies to have guns, why would we let them have ideas?”

  14. Thanks again for covering this! And for awkwardly quoting me! I swear, this is only the first time you will see my name in the hallowed text of “Reason.”

    Err, but regardless, the disappointment was pretty strong for a while, but there are people like you, Radley Balko. And local non-idiots who know how messed up those two days were. It’s not hopeless, it’s just scary how trusting and almost craven some people are about authority. I cheated, I was raised to not trust it.

  15. People need to ask themselves which group has the capacity to wreak more havoc and destruction – the one that is assembled from the bottom up with vaguely similar political convictions serving as its cohesion or the one that is organized from the top down and holds the state sanctioned ability to deploy completely arbitrary use of force? Once they answer that question, they can move on to the next which is, what is ultimately the desired outcome of policing events such as this one in this manner?

    “The police aren’t there to create disorder, they’re there to preserve disorder.”

  16. Took long enough for this to make it here…Seemed like the kind of event that should have occupied much of H&R’s wordage.

    It seems to me that the problem is the police are treating the crowd as a problem, rather than the actions of individuals within the crowd. It is tougher, more dangerous, etc… to go after JUST the violent actors in a crowd than it is to treat the whole crowd as a target. BUT THAT IS NO EXCUSE. Those who are assembling peacefully have a right to be free from police harassment. The violent and the vandal, not so much. The police need to target ONLY the bad actors. If they get away, they get away. Their apprehension is not more important than the rights of the peaceful protesters.

    1. It is tougher, more dangerous, etc… to go after JUST the violent actors in a crowd than it is to treat the whole crowd as a target.

      I’m inclined to believe that quite the opposite is true.

      1. Do you have reasons? It is tougher, in that it requires you do discriminate between good and bad actors. It is more dangerous in that you have to mingle in the crowd rather than standing behind well fortified positions.

        1. My reason is that by deeming the entire group to be “bad actors” you’re giving it incentive to behave as such. If I was an officer I think I’d rather deal with the trouble of weeding out 5 bad actors from a crowd rather than face the entire 500 with provocation. Then again, I’m not one so what would I know?

          1. I think that a problem there is that the officials and police have already created the atmosphere of distrust between the authorities and the protesters.

            If the police were to show they were there to support the protester’s right to protest by not allowing individuals to use it as an excuse to get out of hand, I think there’d be less problems. The question is, how do you change the stigma now that it’s already gone the other way. The police overplay their role as authority as opposed to protectors and the protesters respond with a contempt for their authority. And the cycle scales up with every event.

            Someone mentioned above actually treating the protest like you would a parade or any other event. That actually sounds like a capital idea. Allow the protests to assemble in a similar way to a downtown festival. Block off traffic ahead of time and give the protesters room and a voice.

            The roles of police and protester need to be revisited and their original purposes reaffirmed. The protesters are there to peacably make their views heard. The police are their to protect the protesters as well as any others from individuals who get out of hand. Otherwise it’s their duty to help facilitate the protest, not hinder it.

  17. I like the comment about adding pink ruffles to police uniforms! Seriously, cops used to look like police; now they dress to intimidate. Perhaps the protesters should buy some surplus camo to wear themselves.

  18. I watched some of the videos. Ouch. The pre-recorded voices were disturbing. To invoke the obvious: Orwell would have been impressed.

    As far as camouflage goes, it hides bloodstains very well.

  19. So is there a shorthand legal guide anywhere to

    a) To what degree you are required to listen to police when they tell you you can’t stand in a public space?

    b) What legal action you can take when arrested in a situation such as this where there was no cause to do so?

  20. From everything i have seen and heard, the Police started the violence, it was peaceful (more or less) until they came in and swatted the entire place, and yes Police SHOULD NOT EVER wear soldier clothing.

    1. You haven’t seen or heard enough, apparently. The G20 anarchist groupies smashed windows and fucked up shops in other ways in several neighborhoods near G20 events.

      Personally, I think this whole fiasco could be avoided by allowing shop owners to shoot vandals on sight.

      1. Guilt by association? How does the action of a minority justify action against peaceful protesters? I don’t think you’ve thought this all the way through. As for the shop owners having the right to defend their property…they do. They have a right to use reasonable force to protect their property. Deadly force probably ain’t justified in most cases.

  21. The police officers must be prosecuted for what happened at Pitt.

    1. Agreed, that was more like red china than America

  22. Excellent article. One thing you didn’t make clear was that the vast majority of arrests occurred in Oakland, a section of the city several MILES from the convention center where the G-20 leaders were meeting. The excuse for the enormous security presence was always that they needed to protect the world leaders that attended the meeting. The police actions show that to be a lie: the police presence was clearly designed almost exclusively to suppress dissent.

    1. The opening ceremonies were at the Phipps Conservatory, which is in…

      …you guessed it…

      OAKLAND! And but a short walk from the location of the Pitt videos.

      There was also a riot in North Oakland that night with several shops getting smashed up.

      1. Yes, and Phipps conservatory is… a good MILE from the section of oakland where the shops were vandalized. That justifies macing and arresting INNOCENT BYSTANDERS. Plus, the police were also there SATURDAY night. And “riot”? Give me a break, a few broken windows by a couple of idiots does not constitute a riot.

        You need to get your facts straight.

  23. It depicts a University of Pittsburgh police officer directing traffic at a roadblock. What’s troubling is what he’s wearing: camouflage military fatigues.

    It’s also stupid. If I was standing out in the middle of the street directing traffic I’d want an international orange vest, so I could be easily seen. Doh!

    “Police can’t indiscriminately arrest people. On [Friday] night they didn’t even have the excuse of property damage going on or any illegal activity. It’s really inexplicable.”

    Unfortunately, Walczak is wrong. It’s very explicable. If the only mentality you have is the SWAT team…

    at which point not moving quickly enough for the liking of the police on the scene could result in an arrest.

    Sgt: “Why did you arrest the first person?”
    Officer: “He was walking too slowly.”
    Sgt: “Why did you shoot the second person?”
    Officer: “He was fleeing the scene.”

    You have to ask yourself though what could I have done to avoid putting myself in this position.

    You mean like “Don’t stand in your own front yard?”

  24. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an advocate of anti-globalization or anarchy (however, I would prefer anarchy to an authoritarian police state). But, I am kinda glad about the anarchists because they help to highlight the follies of our government and police. The repression of the rights of these folks helps illustrate the injustice inherit in the system. Too bad no one in the mainstream really gives a shit about the anarchists.

  25. Are these scenes from a crackdown or a tantrum? While there is certainly a police presence, there is no absence of young people in garb which hides their faces. They seem to be looking for confrontations. In one of the videos, after being directed away by police the woman insists on confronting police to the point of being arrested. Naturally these performances are staged in full view of a camera. Perhaps these people would better served by staying school or getting a job.

  26. So violence by police is justified if you are an anti-globalization protester, because we are destructive? Police use agent provocateurs to give that appearance. Also, you link us with anarchists. Generalize a little less next time or just stop writing because you are making people dumber.

  27. This was a brilliantly written piece. Thank you for presenting an honest and level-headed account of the events that occurred at the G20.

  28. Thank you for posting this.

    Its really sad how many people are still in support of police in the city of Pittsburgh. Even students are saying that they people should have just followed orders.

    On one hand, we’ve got a huge number of students who WERE following orders – they just got trapped by a police force that could not effectively communicate and therefore encircled protesters. On the other hand, we’ve got people (like myself) are simply questioning why the dispersal order was given, considering violence was NOT imminent and there was no security threat.

    As someone who ran from tear gas on Thursday night, I will tell you, I violated no laws. I stood in a park on my own campus – and the park was still open. I was threatened with arrest and I was the target of LRAD. I am not violent and I am not even a protester. The only thing I protested during G20 was the excessive police force.

    Police absolutely invited confrontation, as evidenced by this audio:

  29. The anarchist are provacateurs more often than not. They break windows creating the needed justification to send int he police to break skulls. Don’t believe me? check out these cops at the G20! and suck it!

  30. What is most needed is an end to the “time, place and manner” exception to the assembly clause of the First Amendment.

    This is primarily, in the modern era, the exception that decrees that the ability of automobile drivers to travel at the speeds they think they deserve trumps everyone else’s right to free expression. Since all roads and public places in the US, including in urban areas, now belong to cars and not to people, you basically have absolutely no right to assembly if it might interfere with auto traffic. That’s why the city feels entitled to sweep the streets clear even of people who are just standing around and not bothering anyone.

    Second, we urgently need a federal law making it an automatic civil rights violation, regardless of the underlying facts, if police either interfere with someone videotaping their activities or damage or delete video evidence of their activities after seizing cameras. 1 year in the federal pen for a first offense.

    1. I don’t even remotely see where the Constitution would authorize Congress to make such a law. I guess some libertarians are cafeteria-federalists too.

      As for your comment about assembly on roads, you’re so far off base it’s hard to know where to start. There are plenty of public places to assemble without disrupting traffic. I suppose you think that air force bases should be opened up for protests too.

      1. I am not a federalist.

        I’m not even particularly a constitutionalist. I endorse the US Constitution to the extent that it protects liberty, and no farther.

        Frankly if I had the power, I would utterly cast down our current form of government and start over.

        If the federal government does not have the power to bring to heel state officials who violate the rights of individual citizens, then what fucking good is it?

        And as we have established before, Tulpa, you have the fucking instincts of a slave. So it’s not surprising to me that you regard cars as more important than the rights of people. If they had cars back during the Boston Massacre, I’m sure you would have thought that the dead deserved what they got for getting in front of traffic. As far as I am concerned, if the state establishes a right of way for the movement of citizens, it owes that right of way to all citizens, including those on foot, and if the citizens on foot are in the way of the citizens in cars that’s just too damn bad. “Well, we invented these things that move really fast, and we don’t want protestors in the way of things that move very fast, so we’re turning the entire country into a zone where you need a permit to have a march,” doesn’t cut it with me any more. No citizen should have to make any accomodation in his right to access public property, or accept any limit on his right to use his own property, in order to make things easier for automobiles. If we didn’t accept a thousand different limitations on our liberties in order to make the automobile society possible, it wouldn’t exist, and it would be no loss.

  31. This is why our country is totally screwed. If we’ll tolerate this, what WON’T we tolerate.

    “More disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable” indeed.

    And I’m pretty sure TJ was never maced for nothing more than standing on a public sidewalk.

    For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
    For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
    For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
    For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
    For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
    For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

    233 years later, and we’re doing all of these same things to ourselves. Shameful.

  32. Cops needlessly beating a girl from behind in this G20 video……..E&NR=1

  33. A protester arrested for tweeting about the location of the state’s armed thugs? Police raiding the local college where peaceful protesters have gathered? Is that in Tehran? No, it’s Pittsburgh.

    But this quote by Lucy Steigerwald says it all: “I’m truly disappointed in my city’s reaction to Friday night….hundreds of riot cops attack[ed] Pittsburgh’s biggest, most jockish, mainstream college. And people still have no sympathy for peaceful protesters or curious college students on their campus. They just feel comfortable and confident that people who have the right to use force on other people are always in the right when they do so.”

    The American people have become so perfectly propagandized that they are willingly walking into slavery, because they love Big Brother. I have seen it frequently myself, and it is frightening.

  34. This kind of crap is only going to get worse until people who value freedom stand up to them. They need to start personally suing police, not just departments. Of course you will need to consult an attorney, but I believe civil rights violations aren’t covered by the limited immunity that public officials often hide behind. If these swaggering fools think it’s funny to beat up kids doing nothing more than exercising their First Amendment rights, then let’s see how funny they think a lawsuit is.


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  36. To add to the confusing question of why is a cop in the middle of a street directing traffic wearing camo/military looking clothes, I don’t see a badge, how are you supposed to know that is a cop, and not just some loon who spent too much time at the surplus store?

  37. This is what organiziations such as the ACLU are for yet they get all the grief in the world by a big chunk of the American populace.
    Maybe some of the faux libertarians such as Glenn Reynolds and such can take that into consideration next time he labels them on the “other side”.

    1. Quite so. The ACLU may have some flaws, and not defend other amendments as strongly as the first, but I was damn glad to see them there for G-20. Same with the Lawyer’s Guild observers. Those people are doing a damn goods thing for all of us.

  38. Radley, you sir are a whining little girl and no one (repeat “no one”) takes anything you say seriously anymore.

    We’ve all seen the video of the G20 protest thugs engaged in violence and frankly the police used unusually tepid response tactics.

    Those protesters deserved to have their clocks cleaned.

    Please. Take a year off and get to know yourself.

    1. paul is a troll right?

    2. I know I shouldn’t bother but, a handful of people broke windows. Hundreds and thousands more protested peacefully (many are crazy anti-capitalists, but that is not the point) and hundreds who were not doing anything were gassed and attacked by cops. Yeah, nobody died, I guess that excuses it, huh? I guess if two people break windows, the right to assemble is revoked for the whole city.

      The cops were the thugs, and if you don’t think so, I don’t know what videos you’ve been watching.

      And uh, some of us think Balko’s doing a bang-up job, which is why we read his stuff. Don’t assume to speak for anyone but your special self.

      All of this could have been summed up as, fuck off, baby fascist troll.

  39. > several police officers dressed entirely in camouflage
    > emerge from an unmarked car, apprehend a young
    > backpack-toting protester, stuff him into the car,
    > and then drive off. It evoked the sort of “disappearance”
    > one might envision in a Latin American junta or
    > Soviet Block country.

    So if I want to kidnap somebody in broad daylight, all I need is a Ford Crown Victoria and some camouflage uniforms. I suppose dark sunglasses would help, too.

    What is it with the proliferation of unmarked cars over the past decade?

    During my misspent youth in the mid to late 1980s, me and my friends were pretty good at spotting unmarked police cars, even at night and from a distance. They were white, and had those spotlights on the side. But they were rarely seen, and I don’t recall ever seeing one perform a routine traffic stop.

    But around the year 2000, when police departments starting using Ford Crown Victorias and Tauruses, since Chevrolet had stopped making the Caprice in 1995, I noticed that the new style of unmarked cars were making traffic stops.

    After the murder of Lacy Miller in January 2003 by a police impersonator, I really started paying attention. For the next two years, every traffic stop I witnessed was conducted by an unmarked car — in one case, 3 unmarked cars.

    The only time I saw plainly marked police cars were on patrol, or at accident scenes. And although there have been some exceptions, the majority of traffic stops I witness are with unmarked cars.

    And even the marked vehicles rarely have the light-bar on top anymore, so somebody in front of one wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not it’s a police car.

    This puts the motorist in a terrible predicament, since she now has the burden of having to decide whether or not the car behind her with the flashing L.E.D.s in the windshield is a legitimate police car. If she chooses unwisely, she could be victimized by some unknown criminal, or by the police and prosecutors.

  40. I know a lot of people from Pittsburgh and they predicted about this level of reaction. Pinkerton lite.

    I find the reaction to the camo pretty funny. A huge portion of the people in Pittsburgh hunt and therefore own and wear camo. They don’t perceive it in as threatening as residents of other cites. (And as said above, I don’t think the Pittsburgh cops are very interested in adapting to the sensibilities of people who come to their city to break windows.)

    Get your butt out of bourgeois Arlington and get out in the country once in a while.

    1. I’m from Wisconsin. We do a LOT of hunting up here in the north woods. Cops wearing camo here would be terribly disturbing. Let me ask as well, what was the point? Wearing camo meant for forested regions in the city? It couldn’t have been to make them LESS visable.

  41. The “anarchists” who wear masks and throw rocks are not engaging in peacable assembly. The police should use live ammo on them.

    1. Police are much too loose with the use of tear gas, therefore, were I a protester, I would be wearing a mask no matter what. Suck a lung full of gas and you’ll want to wear a mask too, protester or pedestrian.

  42. Fat Man’s a fascist. Great.

    I’m curious to see if the ACLU puts together some kind of case from the G20 protests. Cops regularly abuse their power, making the lives of every good cop a lot more difficult. The images from the protests/pedestrians in Pittsburgh are depressing as hell.

  43. Comprehensive piece, with one glaring omission: use of acoustic weapons not mentioned.…..on-us.html

  44. Obama’s apparent contempt for G20 protesters worth noting here:…

  45. This is one thing that bothers me about Libertarians.

    There is ‘police overkill’, precisely because G20 protesters have a history of violence. You don’t seem to extend the same courtesy to the homeowners and business owners whose property and persons are at risk. To second-guess the police in these circumstances is irresponsible.

    1. To ‘second guess’ police/government/authority and hold them/it accountable is both American and Patriotic. Somehow the Bush era was able to convince some that to question your government was unpatriotic but the fact is this country was founded on dissent and encouraged by the founders. The framers would have rather had the government be toppled by the people than let it become the oppressive, facist government they had just thrown off.

  46. Sorry, Radley. While I absolutely agree with your central premise, let’s not confuse protesting with destruction. The self-proclaimed anarchists have on every occassion used the summits for looting and property destruction. While “Tea Party Activists” have come together in order to get their point across, these petty criminals have used the mantra of demonstrating in order to wreak havoc. The irony is that “anarchists” cry foul when met with a similar violence. Actually, it’s quite funny. They got what they deserved and I hope it continues until these “protesters” realize that in a democracy we play by mutually aggreed upon rules. Once you decide the rules don’t apply and you prefer violence don’t get upset when someone else bring violence to bear.

    1. Anarchists consider violence to be harm against people, not property. By destroying property they make it very costly for business owners, who want to keep the summits away, along with the anarchists. They normally target big corporations from what I’ve seen. They also cause problems for these summits in the long run. Anarchists have no problem destroying property because most don’t think of it as being violent just to be violent but as a tactic. You should know that anarchists play by a set of rules that they all mutually agree upon. They don’t have mob rule, which democracy is. I prefer a Republic because of how balanced it is.

  47. They also have been going after some activists for twittering about the event. This IS a bit like Iran..

  48. Ruy,

    Second-guessing police is “irresponsible” you say? Go tell that to Ian Tomlinson’s family.

    During the London G20 back in April no onlooker was harmed by any protester. But a police officer took the life of a man who was merely observing the protests: Ian Tomlinson.…..t-the-g20/

  49. Great article that wraps up the thinking of the Govt sworn to the constitution, but are the first to violate or forget it. Dem or Rep—same attitude towards the public.

  50. That’s your boy obama lefty’s. That’s what you voted in. He’s just like the gastopo, going to take all your freedom and rights away.

  51. “Their apprehension is not more important than the rights of the peaceful protesters.”


  52. To a certain extent, the individual police officers are being used by their superiors and the civilian leaders which call them into “battle”. There’s anecdotal evidence for this in some of the witness evidence available here – for example Emily Tanner describes an officer barking at her that she’s “the f-ing problem”. Why the officer should express such hostility is a result of pep talks given immediately before deployment on the streets, whereby the police are told that everyone they are about to encounter are anarchists and “lefties”, and an emotion-laden list of the terrible things that these people have said and are about to do is shared. The cops hit the streets like a football team revved for the big game, ready to see anyone who isn’t them as the enemy.

    It is the leadership – in the police, but crucially also civilian – who are responsible for encouraging and deploying this sort of violence.

  53. Where did I ever get the whacky idea that purpose of having police was to protect our rights? Apparently, I have had this assbackward all along.

  54. Okay, we all know what happened in Pittsburgh and in Minneapolis, not to mention Waco, Ruby Ridge, et al.

    Question is, what are we all going to do about it? It’s nice that we can all read about our rights being taken away, and it’s nice that after the fact we can all sit here and talk smack about the police, military, et cetera.

    But a few lawsuits brought by the ACLU and some isolated disgruntled victims of this abuse, but NOW WHAT?

    Until significant ACTION is taken by the many, nothing will change.

    So, either DO something, or start getting use to seeing more of this happening and hearing less about it, because it won’t get any better than it is right now.

    Action, not verbal condemnation is the only thing that will change the situation.

  55. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets

  56. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane.

  57. Unlike the First Amendment, which limited the actions of Congress and by extension had to be incorporated, the Second Amendment stated that RKBA was not to be infringed, and lacked detail as to by whom, and therefore applied to all government. By its very language it was already applicable to the states!

  58. It was pretty sad seeing all of this take place. Police do a wonderful job disregarding the constitution.. but the protesters in some groups weren’t exactly peaceful. In some videos it doesnt even seem like its taking place in the U.S.

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  61. ” Those charges were dropped. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported in February that 442 of the 672 who were arrested had their charges either dropped or dismissed.

  62. I think it is police overkill so that whoever tries to make an attempt to mess with the summit will have second thoughts about doing it. Also, there are other means of activism and it doesn’t need to be in front of the source of your protests.Do it on line, do is far safer

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