NYT: Modest Lefty Pittsburgh Protest Comparable to Huge Conservative Protest in D.C.

Ian Urbina's Saturday New York Times story from the Group of 20 economic meeting in Pittsburgh last weekend, about left-wing and anarchist protesters who took to the streets, came under a headline that misleadingly implied peace abided: "In Pittsburgh, Thousands Stage a Peaceful March for Multiple Causes."

Yet in paragraph four we learned there were 66 arrests in downtown Pittsburgh, and "about 19 businesses sustained broken windows or other damage." And while the Times was loathe to estimate the crowd size of the enormous September 12 anti-Obama protest in Washington, the Times forwarded estimates from "observers" at the lefty Pittsburgh protest who "put the crowd...at 3,000 to 4,000."

While the peaceful September 12 crowd was tarred in the Times as "angry" and "profane" with "no shortage of vitriol," Urbina downplayed the actual violence and vandalism committed by a far smaller band of anarchists in downtown Pittsburgh.

A headline reader could assume that the September 12 conservative protest in Washington and the anarchist protest in Pittsburgh were of the same magnitude, as both used the term "thousands" to describe the crowd size.

The Times's print headline from the conservative rally, where the low end of crowd estimates was 70,000 and some estimates went much higher: "Thousands Attend Broad Protest of Government."

The Times's print headline from the left-wing/anarchist protest, in which "observers" estimated 3,000-4000: "In Pittsburgh, Thousands Stage a Peaceful March for Multiple Causes."

An excerpt from Urbina's piece from Pittsburgh:

Several thousand demonstrators espousing and denouncing a host of causes converged on downtown Pittsburgh on Friday, chanting, pumping up signs and playing instruments in a peaceful and permitted march calling for solutions to a range of problems that they attributed to the economic policies of the world leaders at the Group of 20 meeting.

Protesters with Iraq Veterans Against the War, wearing fatigues, marched alongside Tibetans chiming cymbals, chanting denunciations of China and waving signs, like one that read "G20 Let's Talk Tibet." Students for Justice in Palestine assembled on Forbes Avenue and called for an end to "the Israeli occupation." Others held up signs like "We Say No To Corporate Greed," and "We say yes to human needs."


The People's March, as it was called, was sponsored by the Thomas Merton Center, a Pittsburgh peace organization. It came a day after raucous confrontations between the police and protesters resulted in 66 arrests. At least five people needed medical attention, and about 19 businesses sustained damage.


Observers put the crowd at Friday's march at 3,000 to 4,000. Speakers urged demonstrators to fight for an array of social issues they felt had been largely ignored in global economic policy.

Urbina later included another numerical estimate, as if "more than 400" anarchists is some impressive figure:

Rows of police officers looked on from the sidewalk, watching a group of more than 400 self-described anarchists clad in black.

- Clay Waters is the director of Times Watch, an MRC project tracking the New York Times.