A handful of West Chester University students plan to attend the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh this week, where finance ministers and central bank governors of the Summit plan to discuss the ongoing economic crisis.The G-20 is comprised of Heads of State and invitees of 19 countries representing North and South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
The final member of the G-20 is the European Union, represented by the European Central Bank and its rotating Council presidency.
G-20 members called for a third Summit meeting after holding a previous convention in London this past April. French President Nicolas Sarkozy relayed to a press conference that Pittsburgh’s Summit will focus on evaluating the London conference and continue planning for the global economic crisis.
Peace activist and WCU sociology major Nick Hiller will be driving with friends to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to protest the Summit held Sept. 24-25.
“I’m protesting the failed economic policies they’re putting forth, [policies] that are really screwing over the rest of the world,” Hiller said.
“What affects Third World countries effects us. Everything we eat, everything we have comes from countries like those. I try to let the Third World countries speak for themselves, while I speak for myself, but I’m doing this in solidarity for those [countries], not necessarily with them.”
One example of a G-20 policy Hiller provided involved water distribution within Bolivia, where resources were taken from social services and turned over to larger businesses and corporations.
“[They] prioritized water so that it was illegal to collect rainwater,” Hiller said. He continued to explain that the people of Bolivia held a strike that lead to the water laws being rescinded.
Activists and protestors are organizing various events in order to speak out against the Summit. On Tuesday, the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project will say “No to the G-20, Yes to Community Gatherings” at Friendship Park, following by a presentation by the People’s Summit titled “Another World IS Possible.”
On Thursday, the first day of the Summit, the Resistance Project will hold a community march named “The People’s Uprising.” On Friday a similar event will take place, which Hiller describes as “a big, primitive anti-war march.”
Due to all of the expected hype and activity, the city of Pittsburgh is taking extensive precautionary measures. All public transportation systems within the security parameter of the Summit meetings will be shut down, while other transportation will be re-routed in order to avoid congestion and give control of the situation.
The amount of police force planned for Pittsburgh is equally intensified. Officials estimate that around 4,000 officers will roam the city streets on bikes, motorcycles, in cars, and afoot, in order to provide security for the world leaders in attendance and to keep rioters under control.
“I’m not looking to get arrested,” said Hiller, “but the city is preparing for a lot of arrests.”
The Pennsylvania State Police has added over 1,000 officers to Pittsburgh’s own 900. Other contributors include Allegheny County, various Pittsburgh suburbs and larger cities such as New York City and Baltimore. All of the officers that will be present in Pittsburgh have received “refresher” training for crowd control and other areas of enforcement.
Hiller also commented on the possibility that the city of Pittsburgh will reopen a prison that has been closed for 50 years in order to provide potential space for arrested individuals.
In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Major Terry Seilhamer of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau addressed the amount of security measures being taken.
“It’s not that we have any expectations,” said Maj Seilhamer, “but you have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
South African President Kgalema Motlanthe believes G-20 Summit meetings will become more common in the coming years due to the weight of the economic crisis.
“We are all concerned about the fact that the bottom of this crisis is not visible yet and therefore are aware and alive to the face that these decisive, courageous steps have been taken,” Motlanthe said to reporters at the London Summit.
“You will see a higher frequency of meetings because we will need to monitor the impact of the interventions and ensure that we overcome this crisis within the shortest possible time.”
Though the meeting aims to rectify global issues, peace activists, protestors and students like Hiller will continue to organize and speak out against these meetings as long as they see the policies as unjust.
“I’ll remember what happened at the G-20 in Pittsburgh for a long time,” said Hiller. “More than my half-hour class.”
Tara Tanzos is a third-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at TT649875@wcupa.edu.