A Steel City Sleepover

Friends of the G20 in Pittsburgh:
Since the overnight camping permit for G20 demonstrators was denied for the Pittsburgh parks, I scribbled out this op-ed spoofing the decision and citing the precedents of the peace marches which had camped out overnight in our parks in the past but were unfortunately overlooked in the court hearings leading up to the Summit…it was not published but a lot of progressive friends thought it was darn funny...FYA (for your amusement)...after the below article, read on about what project was actually accomplished during the g20 and planning for upcoming events during the nov election ('09) and may primary ('10)...

Steel City Sleepover
September 20, 2009
By Larry Evans

Well, I guess I have to speak up now. The court ruling last week in Pittsburgh banning overnight protest camps did not dig deep enough into past precedent and probably should be reversed.

Back in 1986, the Great Peace March snoozed peacefully for a couple nights in our oldest and most famous public oasis - Schenley Park. I should know – my name was on the permit. And I remember the Chief of Police summoning me from his bull-horned Paddy Wagon up at the Park’s wondrous Overlook and pointing out to me in very borderline polite terms that if he had known what he knew now – namely that the size of the Peace March encampment was about 5 times what I reckoned it might be when permitted, he would have shut down the whole dang thing. He went on to threaten every inch of my hide if things didn’t proceed peacefully and guess what? It did. As a matter of fact, the place was left in better shape than it was when the 1000 or so tree huggin’ peaceniks stumbled in. In fact it went so well, I scored another camping permit in 1987 for an International Peace Walk (hundreds of Russians and Americans holding hands from DC to SF) which featured a round the clock blues jam, ethnic dance performances and documentary movies like Tony Buba's “Voices From a Steeltown” and “The Mill Hunk Herald”. Everybody then zipped up after a nice candlelight peace ceremony.

Now here we go again in 2009 and I just spent the last few weeks trying to organize a family friendly international sports and culture festival (modeled after Prague’s annual event) at Schenley Park with Dynamo Soccer (Pittsburgh’s inner city soccer association) and the Pittsburgh Folk Festival (the second oldest Folk Fest in the USA) during the two days when the Mighty Summit is here and thousands of Pittsburgh Public School kids are off on forced holiday. Ironically, the effort was derailed mainly because of the growing fear of jamboreeing G20 demonstrators who just might harbor some sublime beef about the world's body language - soccer and dancing! … Bummer.

This current potential encampment of a wide range of left wing squatters is not nearly as organized as the Great Peace March - which was so brilliantly kicked off by Madonna as she high heeled it out of downtown LA pacing a celebrity-laced walk of hundreds of new agers all the way to Washington DC… Who could argue with such star power? Certainly not me – especially since I was being paid to coordinate the March route thru Pennsylvania from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia - finding every bit of Alabama in between (an inside joke – ask any Keystone State liberal). Luckily the March was so lily white and sprinkled with some truly rugged Forrest Gumpish survivalists looking a hair shy of totally insane that even the boys in spankin’ white sheets and pointy hats did not dare mess with it except for some mumbled trash talk. Plus the March was led over the Allegheny Mountains by none other than me (an ex-steelworker) pulling my 3 year-old son Ducky in a little red ryder wagon - proving that trash never trumps cute!

BTW, the next year, the March went to the then Soviet Union (a Leningrad to Moscow trek) and Ducky spent the flight over the pond coloring in Bonnie Raitt’s lap as part of a Santana, James Taylor and the Doobie Brothers Perestroika HBO concert…showing that a good old anti-Nuke stroll was a ton more fun than your modern day anti-Capitalist street riot.

Nor are the G20 demonstrators as unified as the Peace Marchers were - who simply wanted nuclear disarmament, eventually a hot shower and the invention of flavored bottled water. By all accounts the peaceniks of the last century have practically devolved into internet obscurity and the Michael Moore-ists of today remind me of my jolly Mill Hunk Heralders (a local worker-writer magazine which I edited during the steel mill shutdowns of yesteryear). Hey Mike, let's dress up as American Indians and take back the Point! (the crown jewel of Pittsburgh’s three rivers confluence).

I briefly met with the “invading” anarchists at the Thomas Merton Center’s G20 protest organizing meetings held this summer and they would not divulge what they will be doing or when, (much less just who they were) to the rest of the local progressives who, I am confident, voted like frenzied lemings for our first black President Barack Obama and would, in all honesty, settle for a decent health plan and some genuine bank regulation, plus maybe trading Iraq to Afghanistan for a bag of Willie Stargellese poppy seeds to pep up the pathetic Pittsburgh Pirates next year (year 18 of our Good Lord Losing Streak!)

So dear City of William Pitt, do give the sleepover permit to the pacifist Merton Center or me (in case you don’t believe in that old “fool me again” Chinese saying) and we will sort out who is peaceful from those unidentified disrupters whose exit strategy will probably involve a bed and breakfast in that Big House on the Mon River (our scenic jail) anyway.

I personally don’t get it about the disrupters ... I would rather the G20 bigwigs be busy yapping than rattling nukes at each other any day. Plus the anarchists calling Obama a war criminal is like really unfair to the real war criminals. It’s akin to the right wing tea baggers comparing Obama to their apparent role model Hitler. We are getting way too mixed up – left, right; them, us; up, down; salt, pepper; heaven, Cleveland...(another inside joke – ask any Steeler fan) – we need to all go sleep it off at a Schenley Park Steel City G20 Sleepover!

Larry Evans
Still a troublemaker after all these years...
(Larry was the editor of the defunkt Mill Hunk Herald Magazine and was credited with bringing about the demise of the local steel industry via all sorts of labor squabbles in the 1980s. He is also a soccer coach who helped introduce that creeping socialist sport to the Steel City and diverting thousands of young Pittsburgh bods from the jaws of American Football.)

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