Friday, September 25, 2009

Between Riots, Oakland's Streets Contain More Shards Of Our Constitution Than Of Windowpane

The boy mayor (in the photograph, he's the middle child) just pronounced Pittsburgh police conduct a "great success."

He's half-right. Which, for him, is a personal best.

Individual officers conducted themselves in an effective and professional manner, with admirable restraint and honor. They deserve gratitude.

The city's decision-makers, however, continued to fail, along a counterproductive trajectory that has become as predictable as it is unlawful and objectionable. They deserve contempt.

Marty Griffith, on KDKA radio, just lamented yesterday's events because "people started breaking things." You're about a week late to that party, Marty.

The first thing broken was the law, more than a week ago, when the city unconstitutionally abused the permit process and engaged in viewpoint discrimination. Next, the city violated citizens' rights by exhibiting disdain for permits issued to protesters who had attempted to comply with the rules. Then, the city used pretextual stops and incessant bullying to roust people wielding braised tofu and plastic sporks. Against that background, the city deserved a few black eyes.

Yesterday, a group of students (Pitt and CMU, and I acknowledge the point of e-mailers who noted my omission of CMU students in the "Hail to Pitt" posting) gathered at Schenley Plaza as the G20 leaders gathered a half-mile away, at Phipps Conservatory. Mostly, they were inquisitive, understandably excited and consequently well-behaved. City authorities responded to this benign circumstance by advancing on the students and demanding they disperse. I suspect few of the students have studied Constitutional law to the point of detailed familiarity with the term "peaceably to assemble," but their innate sense of justice (still youthful enough to resist corrosion) seems to have sufficed. A group of peaceful onlookers and protesters became righteously indignant.

The students stood their ground for a time, then broke into two principal packs -- one headed toward CMU (Craig Street), the other toward Oakland's Fifth-Forbes business district (right).

The results included shattered glass, dozens of arrests, vivid evidence of the authorities' folly, and a thorough refutation of the City of Pittsburgh's strategery.

For amateurs, the students did pretty well. They hit a couple of PNC bank branches; Jim Rohr is head of the region's ossified and ineffectual power structure the Allegheny Conference, a guy who can be on the telephone with Ravenstahl or Onorato in 15 seconds, and a confirmed enabler of those two jokers. They struck a couple of Subways (predatory franchisor owned by reprehensible people) and a BMW dealership (who could have seen that coming?). My hunch: Walnut Capital (whose Todd Reidbord and Gregg Perelman are big the biggest Luke fans, and vice versa) might be visited today.

I would prefer to see more outrage at shattered Constitutional rights and casual brutality than criticism of some broken glass, but that regret is easily offset by the students' concerted display of a sense of right and wrong. Especially if no one gets hurt and targets are chosen deftly. Somebody needs to teach Luke Ravenstahl and the others calling the shots in Pittsburgh a lesson, and I give students credit for the old college try.

I hope those criticizing the students and ignoring the city's misconduct will reconsider. If not, they are welcome to kiss my Infinonymass.

UPDATE: Thanks to The Pitt News and photographers Diana Connor, Vaughn Wallace and Chris Neverman for the art. The Pitt News website is the place to go for a telling video account of poor police judgment.


Anonymous said...

Dude, the Post Gazette should hire you and put this stuff on the front page

Infinonymous said...

They already called. Told me it's going to happen right after Luke Ravenstahl replaces Sarah Palin as chair of the Harvard physics department.

So I have that going for me . . . which is nice.

MH said...

Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-galunga