My newly acquired experiences include:
-Getting boxed into a side street with an LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device also known as a “sonic cannon”). According to several reports this was the first use of the device against civilians. Should I feel special?
The sonic cannon emits a high pitched, high decibel focus wave of sound. Turned up to full strength it can cause nausea, problems with hearing and visions and migraine-like headaches. At less than full strength, which is what I experienced, it makes you want to get away from it as quickly as possible.
This lead to…
-Running through someone’s yard and private ally to escape the LRAD and accompanying riot cops. At this point I became separated from my professor (we were observing the march through Lawrenceville) and started tagging along with some legal observers from the ACLU and Lawyers Guild. We hung back near the police line with some press as the march moved up Liberty.
-Standing behind the police line, a rock the size of a double fist flew past me, about a foot from my head.
-Following the protest as it wound through Lawrenceville and eventually back to Shadyside and Oakland, I saw tear gas and OC gas (a derivative of pepper spray) deployed several time, the closest being about half a block from me.
-Friday night, I attended a gathering in Schenley Plaza. There were 300-500 people, mostly student onlookers. Some anarchists were playing duck, duck, goose on the grass, and there were two or three people with megaphones making ill-attended speeches. Around 10:45PM I noticed media camera crews being directed to exit the area by riot-cops. There were many more cops than civilians. Several reports have put the ratio of cops to civilians at 2:1.
An announcement was made around 11PM that this was an unlawful gathering and we were told to disperse. At this point riot cops had surrounded the grassy area of the Plaza in a tight perimeter. A few short blasts were let off from the LRAD. There was an orderly exodus of people up Forbes, turning up Bellefield parallel with the Cathedral lawn…until the riot cops moved down Bellefield toward us and pushed us through a 4′ tall hedge, onto a across the Cathedral lawn towards 5th. My friend was shoved by a riot cop when he pointed out the hedge and asked where the police wanted us to go. At this point I saw OC gas being deployed at our backs and head the distinct pops of rubber bullets being fired.
My friends and I were some of the first to arrive at 5th. I could see riot cops forming another perimeter around the Cathedral lawn and wanted to get out before they closed it. We headed up Tennyson, but were quickly cut off by more riot cops firing rubber bullets and pushing civilians back towards the lawn. We cut through the parking lot of the Holiday Inn at UPMC University Center and were ushered into the lobby by another student. There, the security personnel told us we couldn’t stay, and one guard attempted to walk a group of frightened girls (who had been caught up when the perimeter reached 5th) back to Tennyson, but was turned back by riot cops. We waited in the parking lot for things to quiet down, and when they didn’t we crossed Bigelow and headed up Lytton until we were again cut off by riot cops running perpendicular to us on Parkman (I think). After asking an older gentleman out for a smoke if we could shelter on his porch and being rebuffed with a civics lecture, we headed back towards Bigelow, walking southwest. At this point we were just trying to stay ahead of the police perimeter, which seemed to keep pace with us, cordoning off blocks as we passed them. We were able to keep track of police activity on 5th as we passed intersections, and the police presence seemed to be amping up rather than declining.
We eventually made it up the hill to the Peterson Events Center, where someone was able to pick us up. Aside from some bruises and scrapes from the hedge and some wicked blisters from running in my Docs, no one in my immediate group was injured. I have since heard that some friends of mine were arrested, but most of them have been released by now.