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Pitt rally gives voice to people hurt, arrested in G-20 crackdown on campus October 5, 2009

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Pitt rally gives voice to people hurt, arrested in G-20 crackdown on campus
Michael Hasch
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
October 2, 2009


Nathan Lanzendorfer’s injuries

Gianni Label talked about her humiliation. Nathan Lanzendorfer showed the ugly contusions on the back of his legs, arm and back. Tracey Hickey remembered being told by a police officer: “Don’t look beat up or I’ll get in trouble.”

The three were among those arrested or simply caught up in the chaos in Oakland last week when hundreds of police officers in riot gear moved in after G-20 demonstrators and Pitt students failed to obey repeated orders to disperse from the streets and sidewalks around Schenley Plaza.

A few hundred people, mostly Pitt students, rallied again Thursday evening to speak out against what they called the violation of their civil rights by police. The rally, held on the Bigelow Patio side of the William Pitt Union, was calm and peaceful with only two university police officers on bicycles in sight.

“This is a peaceful assembly … after which we will ask you to disperse peacefully,” said Genevieve Redd, president of the university chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the sponsors of the rally.

Label, a 21-year-old Pitt junior, said she was not protesting when she was arrested on the lawn of the Cathedral of Learning.

“They told us to disperse, but nobody left, and I didn’t think anything of it,” Label said. Then, as the situation deteriorated and police started using OC vapor and making arrests, she said she got scared and tried to leave.

“They pushed us over the bushes, and my shoe came off. I went back to get it, and I was getting pushed by those giant GI Joes. We were being treated like criminals, but they weren’t taking us seriously,” Label said.

“A group of soldiers stood outside the bus laughing at us. We spent five hours sitting on that bus. They stood watching us, a group of 19-, 20-, 21-year-old girls being patted down. I had to wait seven hours before being allowed to go to the bathroom. The Porta John didn’t close all the way. I was humiliated. Nothing they do to me now can be worse than what they already did,” Label said.

Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper was out of town and unavailable for comment, police spokeswoman Diane Richard said. Earlier this week, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said: “I think, as a group, the police responded admirably.

Lanzendorfer, 23, of Mt. Lebanon said he was in Oakland for about 15 minutes before being hurt.

“I was running down Fifth Avenue, doing nothing but trying to get away. I was scared. Everybody had the look of panic running through the smoke. Then I felt the shot on the back of my leg,” said Lanzendorfer, who doesn’t know if he was hit by rubber bullets or beanbags.

Hickey, an 18-year-old freshman, said she was on the patio of her residence hall, holding the door open for fleeing students, when she was arrested.

“No one on the patio was protesting. We were standing outside our residence hall. I have an offer from the Pitt police to come in to discuss dropping the charges,” Hickey said.

Sara Rose, an ACLU lawyer, advised students to have an attorney with them when they meet with university police. She said the ACLU will provide legal assistance for those who ask.

Another freshman, Emily Rowe, said she was caught on the stairs between Posvar Hall and her residence hall, Litchfield Towers.

“The police below us were telling us to go up; police on the top were telling us to go down. There were about 20 students caught in the middle,” said Rowe, who was not arrested but needed four staples to close a scalp laceration suffered when she was hit by an OC canister.

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