G20 Protests (2009)

Biggest threat to the G20 so far? Volunteer chefs, of course!

This morning, as I took an ice cold shower in a house with no electricity — my G20 host fell on hard times recently — I thought to myself: “Gee, things could be worse. Sure, I’m sleeping on the floor in a dark house with no power, worrying if my car will be towed at any minute and apprehensive about how the police will see me (press or protester?) and how the protesters will treat me (press, undercover, not worthy, fellow brother?)  … But at least I’m not out there in a retrofitted school bus feeding hungry people.”

It’s true. So far, the main victims of police harassment in Pittsburgh are a motley group of activists dedicated to feeding hungry people. Actually, two groups of activists that feed hungry people.

Since last week, Pittsburgh police have harassed the Seeds of Peace Collective, a busload of activists who came to feed G20 protesters, and Everybody’s Kitchen, another group of volunteer chefs who help prepare food for the homeless and at disaster sites (i.e. Katrina). When I caught up with them yesterday, they had already moved to four different spots around Pittsburgh in six days.

On Friday, police illegally entered the Seeds of Peace bus while it was parked on a street in the city’s Oakland neighborhood. Then, they towed it. After gaining the permission of a local property owner, two groups parked their buses on a piece of land in another part of the city. On Sunday, the police raided that property, and although turned up nothing illegal, the city threatened the owner with a $1,000-a-day fine. They moved the next day, but while in route, police stopped the bus, searched and conducted “safety checks” and then issued two tickets, one for parking on the curb.

A day after moving to another piece of private property — an abandoned school lot — police once again showed up to evict the buses with the property owner. She had since reconsidered her offer. They moved once again where they are at now.

And all that is not counting the times police stopped group members while they walked through the neighborhood or the ridiculous parking violations.

With the help of the ACLU, Seeds of Peace filed a lawsuit, but Wednesday, a judge threw the case out. How long the buses will stay at their current location is anyone’s guess.

“I don’t feel like it’s the end of it,” one of the group members told the Pittsburgh City Paper. “It seems like they’re just waiting until they find some other way of harassing us.”

Check out these videos RE: the police harassment of the Seeds of Peace Collective: