PITTSBURGH: An anti-war group plans to set up a tent city during the Group of Twenty economic summit this week to focus attention on the plight of women and children made refugees by war.
The group, Code Pink, will be among many groups and thousands of activists aiming to use the G-20 summit to spotlight causes including the environment and social injustice.
History shows protesters can successfully use media-saturated events to push their causes, such as when demonstrators at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul were credited with forcing South Korea's shift to democracy, said Mauro Guillen, a globalization expert at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.
"They just want to attract the attention away from the official agenda and put other things on the agenda," Guillen said.
Protests can also turn violent. In 1999, 50,000 protesters shut down World Trade Organization sessions in Seattle as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets. There were some 600 arrests and $3 million in property damage. At the most recent G-20 meeting, held in London in April, thousands of people protested, and one man died after a confrontation with police.
Domenico Lombardi, who sits on the advisory board of the G-20 research group that provides materials to the G-20 participants — 19 world leaders and representatives of the European Union who control more than 85 percent of the world's money — said the summit is a good target for protesters.
One of the most prominent issues raised by protesters involves globalization, a term that encompasses everything from technologies to economic policies that have made the world "borderless and interdependent," Guillen explains.
Protesters say the ill effects of globalization can be seen in developing countries disproportionately affected by fluctuating commodity prices or communities left dangling when industries move to other places, Guillen said.
"It's useful to think about winners and losers, and as a society, it's important to remember the losers," he said. "What do you do about the people who are being left behind?"
Fathali Moghaddam, a Georgetown University psychology professor whose book "The New Global Insecurity" comes out in January, said all issues are linked to globalization. For example, Moghaddam calls the environmental protesters "green fundamentalists" who believe "that globalization is ruining the environment, ruining local economies, ruining local cultures and that corporate values are being put above everything else and corporate values are global."
"The enemy they see out there are these political leaders who they believe represent either corporate interest or imperial interest or some interest that is helping globalization," Moghaddam said.
None of the summit members represents a poor country, "and the issues that really affect large areas of the world are not being tackled," added Lombardi, also a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Global Economy and Development Program.
"Now that they are faced with the pleasant prospect of rebound of the global economy ... they can focus on broader issues, such as climate change, sustainable growth, food security, issues of interest to the world at-large," Lombardi said.
The more organized and established protest groups have scheduled events for the week. One of the larger events, The People's March, is being organized for Friday by the Thomas Merton Center, a Pittsburgh activist group that cites peace and social justice as its objectives.
"I think part of this is public education and public involvement, getting the word out on the many issues that exist," spokeswoman Melissa Minnich said. "The G-20 isn't simple enough that you can sum it up in one issue."
Pete Shell, of the group's anti-war committee, said instead of funding wars, the U.S. ought to be investing in jobs, housing issues and alternative energy.
On Wednesday, several thousand people are expected downtown for a festival and rally for clean energy jobs at the city's Point State Park. The event is organized by state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny, and involves the United Steelworkers union and the Alliance for Climate Protection, founded by former Vice President Al Gore.
Code Pink's Pittsburgh director, Francine Porter, said she hopes her group's tent city in Point State Park from Sunday night to Tuesday night will be a reflection of the suffering of refugees.
Porter, a critical care nurse and mother of two who lives in the suburbs, said she became an activist after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. She had begun to question the world around her and wondered why others would cause America harm and why the U.S. declared war on Iraq.
Her husband is a staunch Republican who she said doesn't agree with her activism, which she says has taken time away from her daughters, ages 12 and 16. The other night, she spent 2 1/2 hours on the phone with an attorney preparing for a federal court case on whether Code Pink could use the park. The group won.
"For a really long time, I wasn't conscious and I wasn't active," she said. "But there's no going back. I can't imagine my life any other way."