Their view: Police overzealous at G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh

If you are among the 188 people arrested during G-20 Summit police actions, you might think the Summit was not worth the hassle.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl disagrees.

He said projected revenue increases made the G-20 a runaway success, even considering the behavior of the police and some demonstrators. World leaders apparently feel proud about the Summit too, pointing to agreements to reduce Chinese exports and U.S. debt. Meanwhile, the Thomas Merton Center threatened lawsuits against the city for excessive police force in a “military-style occupation.”

These three messages wildly diverge from each other, each fashioning their own version of reality.

Students’ perspectives on the crackdown differ as well. Students did not ask for the Summit, though many were excited to partake in international diplomacy and free speech demonstrations – in fact, some professors encouraged it. These students were met by waves of police, soldiers and K-9 units.

The rest is history – readers just might get different versions of this history, depending on the source who wrote it.

Some facts are indiutable. City police have acknowledged that innocent Pitt students got caught in a mess, and Deputy Police Chief Paul Donaldson said the city would actively work to drop charges on those students. This is a good start, but it won’t erase students feeling a debilitating loss of home.

Before the initial Oakland storm, some students lightheartedly mocked the protesters, carrying signs that read, “Everything is OK” and “Don’t protest.” They understood the need to protect world leaders and maintain order.

Opinions rightly changed after students scrambled in vain to escape gas and rubber bullets. In the aftermath, it is not even physical injury that traumatized students – many tell their war stories with a certain pride. More damaging is the students’ feeling that they are unsafe in their own homes, on their own patios and on their own campus.

This destroys community and college pride. Unfortunately, it also undermines trust in the police force. The operation of a police body depends on both force and trust.

By using undue force, police officers hurt the trust that residents place in them. This is more destructive than the $50,000 in damages done to the city by miscreants.

The university has not released an official statement regarding police conduct, though that silence might have been better than Ravenstahl’s statement. At the mayor’s Monday press conference, a reporter asked him if the city plans outreach to current and prospective students to allay lingering fears, to say, “We still love you.” Ravenstahl smiled as he flippantly replied, “We still love you.”

That was all he offered.

With an estimated $35 million in economic stimulus and $100 million in media exposure, the G-20 Summit might have been a payday for the city, but the events surrounding it stole something from students. And neither increased revenue nor city reputation is the kind of currency that can buy our love back.

The above editorial was originally published Sept. 29 by the University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt News. Content was made available by Uwire.