Protesters march against G20 in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - About 10,000 protesters staged a peaceful march against capitalism and the Group of 20’s summit agenda on Friday, as businesses cleaned up from a night of skirmishes on Pittsburgh streets.

Protesters -- from environmentalists, socialists, Palestinians and Tibetans to union workers -- marched toward the convention center where G20 leaders were meeting to discuss global economic issues.

They were flanked by large numbers of police decked out in body armor, and kept about 0.5 mile from the convention center by a ring of security.

Protesters held up signs such as “We Say No To Corporate Greed,” and “G20 = Death by Capitalism” and chanted “Hey hey ho ho, corporate welfare has to go.”

There was only one arrest on Friday and the mood was buoyant, in stark contrast to Thursday’s protest when there were clashes with police and dozens of arrests.

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As protesters marched across a bridge near the Convention Center where G20 leaders met, many held their middle finger aloft as they passed the venue. And they joked with police, chanting, “You’re sexy, you’re cute, take off that riot suit.”

Denise Edwards, 58, a local steel worker wearing a union T-shirt, said, “The reason we’re marching is because we need jobs, but also there’s the issue of justice.”

“The G20 makes the decisions that affect our lives. The decisions they’re making are not working for the people.”

Protests -- usually against some aspect of capitalism -- have often marked summits since trade talks in Seattle in 1999, when demonstrators ransacked the city center, targeting businesses seen as symbols of U.S. corporate power.

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Organizers said Friday’s march was the largest protest in this western Pennsylvania city since the Vietnam war.

The protests started on Thursday as leaders of 19 leading developed and developing economies and the European Union began a two-day meeting to discuss how to avoid another global economic crisis.

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Police said they had arrested a total of 81 people so far this week.

Rachel Kutz-Flamenbaum, 33, was at Friday’s march with her 18-month-old daughter Rosemary strapped to her back.

“We need to be able to show that we’re not afraid to participate in democracy, she said. “Democracy will die if we don’t protect it. We need to conduct our global decision making in a democratic way.”

Thursday’s protests began at lunchtime and continued well past midnight. Starting with a march of about 2,000 people, the protests degenerated into running skirmishes with police.

Protesters smashed shop windows and threw rocks and bottles at police. Police responded with pepper gas, batons and by shooting pellet-filled” bean bags.”

Late on Thursday, several hundred protesters took to the streets near the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus. Police discharged gas and “beanbags” and protesters broke windows at a several stores and banks.

Writing by Mark Egan; Editing by Frances Kerry and Paul Simao