On May 28th, 2009, the City of Pittsburgh was chosen to host the September meeting of the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, otherwise known as the G20. The G20 regularly meet to discuss international finance and the stability of the world markets. Due to the high profile nature of the meetings, many demonstrators gather in the host city to bring attention to their causes.

During the course of the past G20 meetings, numerous demonstrators were arrested for charges ranging from causing damage to property and arson to disorderly conduct and rioting. In the 2006 G20 summit in Melbourne, Australia, 26 protesters were arrested. During the London, England summit in April of this year, 86 protesters were charged and arrested after over 4,000 protesters converged on the city to participate in demonstrations. (It should be noted that last year’s G20 summit in Washington, D.C. was, by most reports, uneventful.)

To prepare for the summit, Pittsburgh has consulted with the former chief of police for Seattle, Washington. In 1999, Seattle hosted the meeting of the World Trade Organization. During that meeting, 50,000 people descended on the city of Seattle to participate in demonstrations. In the mayhem that ensued, over 500 people were arrested. For years after the 1999 WTO meetings the city of Seattle was taken to task due to the poor conditions of the temporary jails used during the meeting as well as for unlawfully arresting approximately 200 demonstrators.

Conclusion: The overall arrest rate for past G20 summits and similar events is lower than you would expect. However, it’s worthwhile to be prepared if you end up being one of the demonstrators that gets arrested.

Coming Tomorrow: What charges are usually filed against demonstrators, protestors, and others arrested in mass settings?