Lauren Wasson, a.k.a. "Bike Girl," became one of the most recognized G-20 arrestees after video surfaced showing her throwing a bike at a police officer. The 23-year-old Mount Washington resident faces a court hearing in October.
So ... why did you throw your bike at the officer?
It really wasn't like [I was] trying to hurt him or anything. I think it was just a natural instinct, because if somebody is shoving you and you've got this big thing in your hand, your instinct is to try to defend yourself.
What did you make of your G-20 celebrity?
I'm Pittsburgh's Lindsay Lohan. It's weird. The day I got out of jail, several people came up to me while I was walking and they were like, "We saw you on the news!" Then I went home and Googled myself, which was really bad. After I started reading all of the different message boards, I was like, "I'm not leaving." My roommates would bring me dinner, and I just kind of sat on the couch and didn't go anywhere.
What have you been up to since G-20?
For probably six months after I got arrested, I didn't ride my bike at all. Just recently I bought a new bike, and I've been working on fixing that up and getting back into shape.
Looking back on G-20, would you have done anything differently?
I probably just would have stayed home.
As then-news editor for the Pitt News, Liz Navratil saw events in Oakland firsthand -- getting more professional experience than she could ever acquire in a classroom.
Being a student reporter, what was the biggest high for you during G-20?
There were a bunch of highs. It was a combination of being in a presidential press conference on Friday afternoon, and then four hours later you're in a park surrounded by police and you're smelling this gas. It was just a surreal experience.
What about the most terrifying moment?
On Friday night, when I was standing at Schenley Plaza, I remember the police had surrounded three sides of the plaza and they were surrounding the fourth. I was standing next to Sadie Gurman, of the [Pittsburgh] Post-Gazette, and I asked her, "Sadie, where do we disperse to?" And I just remember her response being, "I don't know, but I'm getting arrested tonight." And if you remember, she got arrested that night.
Did G-20 spawn a wave of campus activism?
I think we definitely saw it in the initial months after [the summit], but since then it seems to have tampered down and died off. I think we all had this hope that people would be more [engaged]. A month or two after the summit, when we were covering the first court hearings, we would get letters to the editor, like, "Why are you still covering this?" That was kind of disheartening.
If you were snapping photos of G-20 protests, there's a good chance some of your pictures include a guy wearing a New York Knicks jersey and a sombrero. That's 30-year-old Bloomfield resident Chris Nelms.
What were you protesting during G-20?
There were all those cops, and for nothing. Any half-cocked, geopolitical misprisions I have were secondary to the immediacy of black helicopters flying over the house. [During the Lawrenceville protest march] I walked up to the police line and asked about walking by it. They asked me to repeat the question. I did, and then the independent thinker in the group barked, "Take him!" ... After the cops yanked me, [the] first thing I saw when I looked around was a cop whose nameplate read "Capt. Pickles." It was maybe the perfect thing to see at the time.
How much thought did you put into the Knicks-jersey-and-sombrero ensemble?
It was a fairly spontaneous decision to walk down to Arsenal Park, so I didn't put that much thought into it. I got what I was going for, though.
What was your biggest G-20 high point?
I made a couple friends. And through e-mail lists of activist types and other people who got arrested, I've learned of opportunities to yell about library closings and 'roided-up cops beating innocent black kids with handy blunt objects.
Are you still sporting the sombrero?
I definitely rode that G-20 nag until it dropped as far as campus speaking engagements and so on. The last time the sombrero came out was for the Pirates game on July 4. It's more of a museum piece now.
In a widely viewed YouTube video, a handcuffed Kyle Kramer is posed kneeling for a "trophy photo" taken by Chicago police after his Oakland arrest. Kramer -- who says he was just out trying to get some pizza -- later did community service on charges of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. He plans to sue the city and several police departments, including Chicago's.
Did you smile for the photo?
I have no idea what happened in the minute that [the photo] was snapped, because it was just a really weird experience. I kind of want a copy of that photo just to see the expressions on the cops' faces and try to figure out what everyone was actually thinking.
It was pretty surreal that it all happened personally to me -- and I didn't realize anybody had gotten it on video. It didn't cross my mind that it would get any attention until I started getting phone calls ... from papers and TV stations.
Would you do anything differently?
The cops who arrested me were talking a lot of trash. Maybe if I had known what was going to happen, I would've taken time to think of some better comebacks, rather than mumbling.
In the [police] van, we were pretty chatty. ... A guy who was put in there after me was like, "Are you Kyle Kramer? I went to high school with you. I used to eat lunch with your sister."
What did you learn from the G-20?
The American concept of freedom is pretty illusory in that it exists as long as the authorities or upper levels of government want it to exist ... I think that's the thing that drives me to push through with this lawsuit.
The veteran local protester was at the forefront of local demonstrations, but Petrarca now lives in Vermont, where he's fighting to legalize cannabis.
What was the high point of the G-20 summit?
The coming together of various [activist] organizations to come up with the Pittsburgh Principals, which were a combined [protest] strategy that outlined unifying points we were standing up for.
[But] when all of these groups did come together, it was hard to overcome some of the hard feelings that existed between some of the nonviolent, faith-based groups and the direct-action organizations. But that was minor compared to what we accomplished.
The acts of protest and civil disobedience, especially the Battle of Lawrenceville. You had 700 to 800 people in an active confrontation with police officers from all over the country, and you had the introduction of the LRAD [mobile loudspeaker system] as a weapon used for the first time on American citizens. It strengthened the notion that we as citizens must resist, not retreat. On this day, we stood up and we fought.
You were arrested when you sat down in front of police and an armored vehicle. What made you decide to make your stand in that way?
We were being pushed and bullied all through Lawrenceville that day, and I had just had enough. I channeled that unnamed protester from Tiananmen Square and decided it was time to put up or shut up. It was a minimal gesture, but something had to be done.
What's the most striking thing you learned from the G-20?
The biggest revelation that I learned from the G-20 was how nakedly brutal the Democratic Party was [here]. Pittsburgh is a one-party town, but let me tell you something: They're not Democrats, they're Republicans.
This 30-year-old Greenpeace volunteer-coordinator from San Francisco barely saw the G-20. He'd sought to drop a large environmental banner from the Fort Pitt Bridge, but while his colleagues dropped a similar banner from the West End Bridge, police pinched his team before it could act.
Was the West End Bridge banner dropped before yours because of a glitch? Is that how police caught you?
We didn't have the two drops timed precisely. I saw their banner come down as we were finishing anchoring our ropes. I think we were caught because of the sheer overwhelming presence of the authorities. We were also a little closer to Downtown and the convention center than the other team. Honestly, I think they only caught us by sheer luck.
Little was done on the environment at the summit. What impact do you think the banners had?
It was disappointing that the people who had the most power to decide how to address our devastating climate issues decided to ignore their responsibilities. ... But what we showed by our action before the summit started was that people weren't going to stand for this. I think the statement we made turned that around a bit, and they did end up at least addressing climate change a bit
Have you been involved in any further actions since the G-20?
Well ... none that I can tell you about.