The G-20 will not just affect Pittsburgh. Greenpeace and other organisations have proven from their occupations of Italian power stations and the Mt Rushmore banner during the G-8 Summit that the location of an event is not the only place that protests will occur. This has significant implications for corporations and government alike, for whom the time to identify this issue as a posing a threat, and finding a solution, is rapidly running out.
Protests related to worldwide summits come in a number of forms. They are conducted by the peaceful protestors, who wish to exercise their right to free speech and public assembly, and who should be facilitated in doing so. Then there are the protestors intent on violence. They come willing and prepared for violence, and for them no negotiation or attempts at reconciliation for peaceful protest will be acceptable. These people must be identified, arrested at the inception of their attempt to commit violence or vandalism, and robustly prosecuted. Finally there are the protestors who seek to make a statement of some kind away from the summit, by occupying a coal fired power station or the buildings of a hated corporate entity.
The Pittsburgh Organizing Committee, a technically competent and well motivated anarchist protest group, with a history of technically proficient and effective protesting, is involved in coordinating the protests in Pittsburgh alongside GPAC and PG-20RP. Activity within Pittsburgh itself will be the subject of a separate blog, given that there should be concerns around:
• the predicted number of police (whether 4,000 is actually enough given that there are both counter-terrorism and public order duties to fulfil),
• the available budget for addressing training and litigation,
• that the training and command model has shown itself to be completely inadequate in every other major event in the US in the past 10 years in events where there has been a risk of violence (unless you regard multi-multi-millions in compensatory damages as an acceptable outcome), and
• the capabilities of the Pittsburgh based anarchist organisations, those intending to come to town for the protests, their motivations and the explicit threats that they have made to corporate entities in the City.
Any organization with an exposure to direct protestor ire, be they financial, insurance, oil and mining sector including refineries and power stations, and other groups who know themselves to be exposed, should be reviewing their counter-protestor plans now, in anticipation of September. This must include all police departments, particularly those whose cities have had previous anarchist, extreme left wing or environmental protests, as those past protests demonstrate the ability to motivate protestors with related concerns. Most protests of this type will be non-violent, but any protest runs the risk of being hijacked by those intent on violence with the police for their own reasons and can seriously slow productivity at the business being targeted.
Corporate entities must embrace the fact that anarchist protestors and environmental protestors have their own tactics, that quickly transfer globally, and that are very effective. Believing that normal business continuity processes and security tactics designed to deal with disaffected employees or robberies simply won’t manage this threat, particularly when the protestors of this type have developed and mature tactics for encouraging behaviour open to charges of assault and compensatory damages afterwards.
The threat is serious, and the threat is real. Unfortunately I know that it is a threat that is being ignored by many corporate entities in the US, for whom learning the hard way, in terms of reputational and financial damages, which will inevitably strike at stock value, is the only way.