APTOPIX G20 Summit Protest
Matt Rourke  /  AP
The main message of the so-called Peoples' March to the G-20 was a demand for solutions to the planet's economic and environmental challenges different than those the world's richest countries are pursuing.
updated 9/25/2009 10:30:35 PM ET 2009-09-26T02:30:35

A vociferous but peaceful group of several thousand people marched for miles through downtown Pittsburgh on Friday, united by opposition to the Group of 20 summit but expressing a diversity of mostly liberal causes as an army of stone-faced riot police watched their every move.

Dozens of black-clad anarchists were conspicuous among the demonstrators, but there was no sign of the disturbances that had resulted in arrests and property damage a day earlier.

Public safety officials said 83 people were arrested at protests and other events and about $50,000 in property damage was done during the two-day summit, which ended Friday. They said a man who smashed windows at a Citizens Bank branch in the city's Oakland section was responsible for $20,000 in damage.

The main message of the so-called Peoples' March to the G-20 was a demand for solutions to the planet's economic and environmental challenges different than those the world's richest countries are pursuing. But there also was a strong contingent of anti-war protesters and those interested in such diverse issues as African debt relief, rejection of corporate subsidies and more humane child-labor laws.

"We want money for jobs, not war, money to clean up the environment," said Pete Shell, a protest organizer.

Black-clad anarchists
President Barack Obama said the protests had been relatively peaceful, adding that previous world summits drew far more protesters than came to Pittsburgh. He described many as opposing capitalism and free markets in general, and said he supported their freedom to express their views but disagreed with them.

There also was a festive spirit in Friday's crowd — colorful flags, bicyclists, a group of hula hoopers, a large parade puppet in the shape of a dove, a small brass band and a correspondent from Comedy Central's The Daily Show, who drew a mini-crowd of his own.

The march had been issued a city permit and organizers pledged to keep it nonviolent, a goal they stressed to participants, even though some were determined to test police restraint.

At one point, a group of black-clad anarchists, their faces covered, faced a line of police officers and sang, "We all live in a fascist bully state" to the tune of the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine." Anarchists also came nose-to-nose with officers, to little effect.

Leaders of 19 countries and the European Union were meeting downtown, in sight of the Andy Warhol Bridge. When the protesters reached the bridge, they stopped and shouted toward the summit. Some gestured obscenely; one woman on a bullhorn yelled, "Power to the people, not the G-20."

'Going to get ugly'
At the park where the three-hour procession ended, volunteers dished beans, rice and salsa on tortillas out of pots and coolers while speakers talked of convicting the G-20 leaders of crimes against humanity.

Joshua Nichols, 24, of Telluride, Colo., drove 24 hours to participate. He described himself as a migrant who shovels snow in winter, cleans houses, works on an organic farm and teaches preschool in the summer.

"I am here because I think the G-20 is in part an organization among others that leads to the subjugation of people all over the world," he said. "We need to stand up and say that we're going to put an end to this or it's going to get ugly."

Ed Cloonan, 62, of Munhall, Pa., came to demand a single-payer health care plan and an end to what he called the "cancer of the insurance system."

Fifteen-year-old Rosi Lowe, a student from Pittsburgh, was in the crowd with a classmate for a school project on the G-20 and had formed a conclusion: "I feel like it's real exclusive and doesn't represent the entire world."

Friday's march had some marked differences from a Thursday afternoon march that ended with clashes between police and anarchists.

The Thursday march didn't have a permit and police declared it illegal almost as soon as it began. Small bands of anarchists responded to officers' overwhelming show of force by rolling huge metal trash bins, throwing rocks and breaking windows. Police fired bean bags and canisters of pepper spray and smoke.

Chaos
Later that night, hundreds of officers surrounded what was mostly a large gathering of University of Pittsburgh students in the city's Oakland neighborhood. The area was adjacent to where G-20 participants opened the summit, but leaders were long gone by the time police declared the gathering illegal and fired canisters of pepper spray and smoke.

Civil liberties groups decried what they called a heavy-handed and unwarranted police response to the Thursday protests. They complained that riot officers focused on largely peaceful, if unsanctioned, demonstrations when they should have been paying more attention to small groups of vandals that smashed windows of city businesses.

Video: Police outnumber protesters Legal observers at the University of Pittsburgh gathering saw police surrounding, chasing and arresting students who weren't involved in the protest, said Paige Cram, spokeswoman for the National Lawyers Guild, a liberal legal-aid group.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has praised officers for their work to minimize property damage. No protesters have been seriously injured.

In all, several businesses were damaged Thursday and nearly 70 people were arrested on charges including failure to disperse and obstructing traffic. Four face more serious charges of aggravated assault, and two of those are also charged with inciting a riot, according to a Pittsburgh police news release.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Day 3

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  1. Demonstrators greet a police officer dressed in riot gear prior to joining thousands of marchers through downtown Pittsburgh on Friday, Sept. 25, to protest the G-20 economic summit. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (bottom left) reaches past U.S. President Barack Obama (center) to shake hands with China's President Hu Jintao during the G-20 summit group photo on Sept. 25. At top are Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (left), British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (center) and Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. (Darren Staples / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, right, walk off stage after delivering a joint statement about Iranian nuclear ambitions on Friday. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Groups protesting the G-20 summit being held in Pittsburgh march down Fifth Ave. (Keith Srakocic / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Thousands of demonstrators march through downtown Pittsburgh on Sept. 25 to protest the G-20 economic summit. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Onlookers watch from a storefront window alongside riot police officers as thousands march through downtown Pittsburgh on Friday. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. The leaders of the G-20 summit gather around the meeting table for the first plenary session at the Pittsburgh Convention Center on Sept. 25. (Jim Bourg / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Above: Slideshow (7) G20 in Pittsburgh - Day 3
  2. Image: G20 Pittsburgh Summit
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    Slideshow (11) G20 in Pittsburgh - Day 2
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    Slideshow (10) G20 in Pittsburgh - Day 1

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