High-tech G20

IssueNovember 2009
News by Elise Desiderio

This year’s G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, drew worldwide attention to radical politics. As in previous years, the streets were saturated with police as well as protesters. This year, however, both radical actors and police brought a new series of high-tech approaches to the summit. In addition to the now familiar truncheons, tear gas, and rubber bullets, police for the first time used the long range acoustic device, or LRAD. This “sound cannon” emits loud and high-pitched noises at 140-150 decibels, higher than the normal human threshold of pain at 120-140 decibels. Over the course of the two-day summit (24-25 September), close to 200 people were detained.


Among them were Elliot Madison, 41, of Queens, New York. Madison was arrested in Pittsburgh for allegedly using the social network Twitter to alert protesters of police movements. His Twitter account has since been deleted. His home in New York was raided a week later by the FBI, and possessions seized, including a picture of Lenin.

Madison was charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution, possession of instruments of crime, and criminal use of a communications facility. Madison’s arrest raises many questions, chief among them: is free speech on the internet an “instrument of crime”?

There were no reports that Madison used the internet to promote violence or criminal activity. His lawyer, Martin Stolar, argues: “There’s absolutely nothing that he’s done that should subject him to any criminal liability.”

Madison himself points out: “During the Twitter revolution going on in Iran, in Moldova, in Guatemala, in Honduras, in all those cases, repressive governments have arrested folks for using Twitter.” He added “ I’m expecting the State Department will come out and support us also.”