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Students get a taste of protest at G-20 summit from blockades, tear gas and rubber bullets

Police in riot gear, people pushing and shoving and running, a helicopter hovering overhead, chaos, bedlam, and disorder.

These words paint a harrowing picture and would not be the first to come to mind when one hears the words “peaceful protest.”

This was the reality that met those who arrived to protest the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh on Sept. 24. Four Eastern students were among the protesters.

Juniors Stephanie Ciner and Katy Slininger, first-year Valerie Woodhouse and sophomore Timothy Wotring left Eastern’s campus at 5 a.m. Thursday morning and arrived in Pittsburgh around 11:30 a.m.

“I was protesting the assembly of the G-20 and how undemocratic it is,” Wotring said. “When a small group of people are telling the world what to do, we have a problem. Centralized power equals corruption in my mind.”

The students met in Arsenal Park several miles from downtown Pittsburgh along with several hundred likeminded radicals, but they were met with resistance when the march began.

“The police were on bikes, lined up outside the entrance shoulder-to-shoulder,” Ciner said. “We couldn’t just leave the park–we had to climb over a stone wall to get down.”

Once they got out of the park, the students still had problems getting to their desired location. “We didn’t get very far and we didn’t get anywhere near the G-20,” Wotring said. “I felt great until they said they were going to start using force.”

Blocked by police at every turn, the protesters were unable to get close to the meeting place, but were still able to get a message across. Trapped in an alleyway at one point, the students were tear-gassed.

“When my eyes started to burn I started wondering, am I really in Pittsburgh?” Ciner said. “I was fleeing the police with a bandana over my face – it was very surreal and really hard to figure out what was happening.”

For some protesters, the tear-gas was not enough to make them stop.

“We left around the time they started shooting people with rubber bullets,” Slininiger said.

 

Some wonder why they were there if nothing was accomplished. However, the students have no doubt they were a part of something meaningful.

“I did not expect that our protest would have any effect on the G-20, but I want to demonstrate that there are people who still care about these issues–about human rights and poverty and environmentalism,” Ciner said. “We have a constitutional right to peacefully assemble and petition our leaders. They were there making decisions for the 6.7 billion in the world – where do we fit in there?”

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