The G20 was formed in 1999 in the face of mounting criticism of the G8’s undemocratic manipulation of global economic policy. Intended to legitimise the G8/G20 process as a more inclusive group of economic superpowers, the G8 announced in 2008 that it would cede some of its authority to the G20. Regardless, G20 meetings have attracted mass protests over the years on issues ranging from anti-globalisation, anti-capitalism, environmental destruction, social justice, labour rights, war and Indigenous rights. Every G20 summit since 2008 has faced protest action. What has characterised the state’s response tot hese protests is an overwhelming abuse of power.
In 2006 Melbourne hosted the G20 and saw protests of more than 3000 people. The Arterial Bloc formed part of the protests having put out a call to go prepared for radical disobedience:
“…We are choosing not to be compliant citizens. Rather, we are relying only on our own disobedience”.
These radical UN-citizens successfully disrupted the conference to some degree, but faced a witch hunt and character assassinations for months afterwards. The 2009 Pittsburgh G20 Summit saw a denial of the right to protest until the American Council of Civil Liberties successfully sued the city of Pittsburgh, forcing them to issue permits for demonstrations. Up to 8000 people participated in protests over the course of the summit, with police using pepper spray and, for the first time in the United States, a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD/sound cannon) to break up the demonstrations. Over 35,000 people protested at London’s G20 meeting in 2009, as well as 5000 people attending the G20 Meltdown protest. This protest was kettled by police for up to seven hours, during which time bystander (newspaper vendor Ian Tomilson) was struck by police and died. In Toronto in 2010, 10,000 people joined a march against the G20, with over 1000 arrests during the various protests making it the largest mass arrest in Canadian history (though 800 people were released without charge). Rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas were used by police. At each G20 summit, security measures and brutality increase.