Goofus and Gallant at the G-20

A few more demonstrations took place at the G-20 conference in Pittsburgh after my post of September 25. Most significantly, there was a peaceful march from Oakland to downtown (where I saw it) and then to the Northside, organized by seven or so groups and drawing from 2,000 to 4,000 people.

The contrast in coverage both locally and nationally between this peaceful display and the September 24 protests, the ones without permit which eventually led to 110 arrests and a dozen or so broken windows, created its own kind of ideological statement. As soon as the peaceful demonstration started to unfold, every news-gathering operation spun a cautionary contrast, a kind of “Goofus and Gallant” moment: Bad demonstrators in the marches without permits; good demonstrators at the large permitted parade. Some reports actually did a point by point comparison of the good and bad behavior, just as writer Garry Cleveland Myers and illustrator would do with Goofus and Gallant in the old Highlights magazine. (I understand that this series, dedicated to teaching social cues to children, still runs, and has graduated from black and white to computer graphics.)

The fly in this ointment, of course, is the fact that the Goofusards of the Pittsburgh G-20 didn’t do that much damage, virtually all of which was caused by one guy, and that the police in fact did arrest a few too many people at the unpermitted protests. Which is not to say I applaud the damage—in fact, I have always been a “gallant” proponent of nonviolent, non-destructive protest.

Some uncatalogued final G-20 thoughts:

  • The people who broke the windows of local operations of national chains are as uneducated to the facts as those who want a “public health insurance option” to compete with commercial insurers. In the case of many of the people who want a public option because they hate the commercial insurers, they don’t realize that it will likely create more business for the commercial insurers, because the government will almost assuredly contract with the commercials to provide the administrative and claims processing services for the public option. In the case of the people breaking windows of local Wendy’s and McDonald’s locations, they don’t realize that the owners of the establishments are not multinational corporations, but franchisees who are typically small business owners.
  • As I said, for the most part law enforcement officials did a good job, but it was definitely not necessary to line Grant Street with muzzled, but vicious-looking police dogs every eight feet or so during the “good” downtown demonstration. It was also a mistake to deploy forces to patrol this demonstration in such a way that it led to a shutdown of all downtown bus service for a period of several hours.
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