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Republican National Convention adventures

Howdy blogosphere! Long time, no read!

It’s been a year since I left Korea and ended regular posts from my last project, Alex and Chickpea Do Korea.

But I assure you, I’ve been busy: A trip around the world and an almost equally exhausting readjustment to life in the United States — in an election year no less!

I’ve recently been reporting for Courthouse News covering civil cases in the Tampa Bay area. But I also some interesting moments last month when the media and Republicans descended on the Tampa Bay area.

I wrote about it for Tampa Bay’s award-winning alternative weekly, Creative Loafing.

From passionate protests and dancing vaginas to a candid interview with presidential candidate Vermin Supreme — he wants to give every American a free pony — I braved $50 million worth of security and a phalanx of law enforcement to cover this convention like no other news outlet.

And, in a homage to the 40th anniversary of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail (which, incidentally, was the last time the Republicans held a convention in Florida), I ended my reporting with an unbelievable journey inside the belly of the beast. Bad tipping politicians? Republican pool parties? A hug with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich?

Yup, it’s all here.

Enjoy!

Alex and Chickpea Do Korea

Alex and Chickpea Do Southeast Asia: Thai Trippin’ – 13 things to do in Bangkok

We’re back in Korea and back to the grind. It’s the first day of the spring semester. Unfortunately, it doesn’t much feel like spring. I’m still dreaming of the warm weather, tropical fruit, green spaces and the impressive architecture of Bangkok, Thailand. We did too damn much while we were there to cover it all, but here are the highlights (and some suggestions if you find your way to this cosmopolitan Asian city):

Behind the News, G20 Protests (2009), Wanderlust

Best of G20: The People’s March

On September 25, the last day of the G20 conference, several groups organized a “People’s March” from the University of Pittsburgh campus through downtown. Weeks ago, the city granted a permit for the march and accompanying rally, but that didn’t stop scores of riot cops from escorting the estimated 5,000 protesters through the city. At one point, the crowd stretched eight blocks long, the hodgepodge collection of activists chanting, beating drums and holding every manner of protest signage. Here’s the people that stood out:

G20 Protests (2009), Wanderlust

Best of G20: The Resist G20 March and Rally

On September 24, the first day of the G20 summit, activists affiliated with Resist G20 gathered at Pittsburgh’s Arsenal Park for a rally and march to downtown. The organizers did not have a permit to march; in fact, they never even applied. They had this strange notion of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which allows people to assemble and petition the government for grievances. Nothing about a permit in that document.

But city would not be outdone. They sent a phalanx of bike cops, state troopers and riot cops to prevent protesters from leaving the neighborhood. To prove their point, they blocked several streets not allowing activists or residents out or in, and then rolled out the newest form of crowd control: the L-RAD or Long Range Acoustic Device. The device — popular with the Communist government of China and the repressive former Russian satellite country, Georgia — emits an ear-splitting siren. The L-RAD had never been used in the U.S. before the G20 summit.

Eventually, a stand-off ensued between protesters and police. After a few anarchists stoked the tension, police fired teargas, cordoned off the protest and waited until factions of anarchists took the police to another part of the city.

Best Pittsburgh Photo Op

Best Assassination Threat on a Bed Sheet

Best Undercover Cop

The woman in the middle
The woman in the middle.

Best Use for a Stuffed Bird

Most Annoying Riot Control Device

G20 Protests (2009), Wanderlust

The Best of G20

The G20 is officially over.

All the delegates from various countries are gone. Last night, President Obama left for the airport via motorcade (and severely screwed up my exit of the city, I might add). And most protesters have left the couches and squat houses of Pittsburgh. Well, at least those that are not still in jail.

Everybody is calling the event a success:  President Obama, the other G20 members, the city of Pittsburgh, even the perpetually angry anarchists. I’m not so sure about “success,” but that’s for another blog post I’m working on.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of electricity where I was staying for the week, regular updates of the events surrounding the G20 were not possible. But I did attend numerous protests and meetings, some more successful than others.

To let my readers digest the myriad of groups and causes, I’ll post a guide of the most important, interesting or humorous aspects of the protests surrounding the G20. All of the photos and videos were shot by me unless otherwise noted.

Enjoy!

Behind the News, G20 Protests (2009)

A guide to following the G20 if you’re not in Pittsburgh

Due to the limitations of my stay in Pittsburgh, and the annoying fact that my phone can’t even Tweet, this blog is not the best resource if you’re stuck at work in Tampa or Des Moines and want hour-by-hour protest action.

But even if I did have those capabilities, the only way to get a true picture of what’s happening on the ground in Pittsburgh is to read a variety of independent media. So, here’s what I’m looking at:

Pittsburgh IMC By incorporating Twitter feeds, video, audio and loads of photos, this local Independent Media Center is one of the best resources to catching some crazy anarchist protest or the latest arrests.

Mobile Broadcast News I met the guy running this site a few days ago and he’s one hard workin’ videographer. Check this site a few times a day for quality, edited video and interviews.

Pittsburgh City Paper‘s blog Although they don’t update often enough and sometimes over-snark, I usually enjoy the alt-weekly take on events — an equal skepticism of the G20 conference and the protesters, topped with a little humor and local advocacy.

Look hard and often!

G20 Protests (2009)

What is the G20 and why am I in Pittsburgh?

If you haven’t seen any news reports about the G20 conference in Pittsburgh yet, chances are by the end of the week you will.

On September 23-24, leaders from 20 of the world’s economic superpowers will meet to iron out world economic issues behind closed doors in Pittsburgh. According to reports, these leaders — including President Obama — plan to talk about oil prices, U.S. debt, world economic growth and restoring faith in the financial markets.

But on the streets, potentially thousands of protesters from across the country will descend on the conferences to disrupt what they see as the meeting of an undemocratic group of world elites intending on further manipulating the third world. The high unemployment rate is also high on the list of grievances. Based on past protests, these dissenters plan to march through the streets, block traffic and generally make themselves heard.

Since the press are not allowed in the actual G20 conference meetings, I’ve come to Pittsburgh to report on the latter group. For the next four or five days, I’ll follow the protesters, interview some, avoid heavy-handed police tactics and hopefully make sense of it all.

I have a little experience in this. In 1999-2000, when anti-globalization protests were all the rage, I traveled to a few cities rocked by such protests. This time, I plan to report on an important conference while documenting the protest movement surrounding it, because the national media refuses to tackle these hard subjects in favor of easy-to-explain soundbites. As past protests have shown, the only real coverage of these events comes from independent media.

It also helps that I”m an unemployed journalist.