By Eli Clifton
Below are some interesting videos I made in Pittsburgh last week. I was in town to cover the G-20 summit but went out on Thursday night with a friend to see some of the protests occurring around the city. At this protest, held at the University of Pittsburgh, we saw an curious series of events transpire.
Pittsburgh police in riot gear were slowly and systematically moving protesters out of the street and away from a roadblock near a venue where summit delegates were attending an evening reception. As the line of riot police was about to finish moving the crowd on to the sidewalk, a small group of protesters—who seemed to be mainly university students—sat down in the street and refused police orders to move.
This brought what had been a relatively easy effort by the police to clear a street into a more direct confrontation. Would they arrest the students? Teargas them? Use their omnipresent batons? Would the students—who seemed to have no shared cause for protest—stand, or rather sit, their ground?
We stood with a small group of people watching this confrontation develop. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, two young men with drums and a young woman with finger cymbals started beating out a drum circle beat and leading call-and-response chants.
The young men—wearing identical cargo shorts and matching hemp necklaces— and the young woman soon had all of the sit-in participants up on their feet and dancing, slowly leading them away from the police line. A confrontation was averted.
Who were the trio of dancer-drummers? Why did they only appear at the moment a confrontation seemed inevitable?
Sit-in having turned to dance party, my companion and I walked away from the protest wondering what we had just watched transpire.