Protesters rally at Fence
The Fence at Carnegie Mellon has traditionally been the meeting spot on campus where students’ voices resonate the loudest.
On Saturday, a dozen protesters dressed in HAZMAT suits, green hard hats, and surgical masks gathered around the shantytown to educate passersby on the current problems regarding the G20 and climate change. Others marched around the Fence beating drums, and some created flags and signs that could be used during the rally.
One activist, Dea G, marching with the Green and Black Contingent, stood near the Fence to bring attention to the need for radicalism in the climate change policies discussed in the G20.
“The industrialization policies of the G20 have led to a complete destruction of our Earth,” G said. “Instead of asking Obama to make changes, [radicalism] means that if he doesn’t make a change, we will stand here and make the change ourselves.”
G’s message to Carnegie Mellon students was that although it is really easy to get trapped into a pattern of classes and activities, it is really important to become active.
During the week of the G20 conference, picket signs with pleas to world leaders lay strewn around the Fence as a part of a senior project for art students Carolina Ramos and Austin Redwood.
The purpose of their project was to create an art space in which people could tangibly advertise their take on the G20 summit. They used the Fence and its surrounding shantytown as a symbol of the great controversies that the G20 brought to Pittsburgh.
Dean of Student Affairs Karen D. Boyd felt that this shantytown resonated with the concept of students’ becoming involved in their passions, and said she believes that this is what Carnegie Mellon is all about.
From an administrative standpoint, Boyd is there to allow Ramos and Redwood to achieve their dreams and help them comply with the safety parameters in place. “I live in a country and a campus that shares the same beliefs as me, that the idea of the free exchange of ideas is always better,” Boyd said. “I believe more students need to engage and think about what they are engaging in; that’s the only way they will be able to grow.”
For example, a group came to the Fence to join a rally that wanted world leaders to focus on issues such as education, rather than ones such as militarism.
After making signs that read “Students, not Soldiers,” they hung up the signs as art in the shantytown. Boyd said that this physical expression of a social event truly embodies the purpose of the makeshift slum. The signs and protest later made the New York Times.
Ramos and Redwood exemplified the engagement that both Boyd and G encourage. Ramos, who has been working extensively with her partner Redwood, was inspired to build the slum culture as her project to visually represent those who are unrepresented in the G20.
“I have a lot of separate issues that I think the G20 could express, but as I see it, all they are focusing their energy on is the massive amount of money they are going to be redistributing to the International Monetary Fund,” Ramos said. “I think the IMF is an organ of government that has caused a lot more harm than good to the world.”
She feels that the structural readjustment policies threaten the social safety nets of the individuals that live in poverty. In order to express her passion for this issue, Ramos and Redwood set up the shantytown to represent three different aspects of the G20.
First, Ramos painted a utopian kingdom on one of the makeshift walls to represent the idealism that is often associated with the G20.
Boyd interpreted that on one side of this wall is art that represents what some students feel is the reality of the conference. Graffiti with messages of despair and broken, boarded walls surround this section. This section is to represent those who are unrepresented and often lost in the sea of poverty.
Boyd said that the final section of the structure is to represent that even those who live in middle class America are affected by the lack of progress made in the G20.
A major aspect of this set up, however, is that the Fence expresses not only the idea of the founders of the project, but the beliefs and ideologies of every passerby who wishes to contribute to the structure.
Boyd feels that all students, in one way or another, should get involved and truly interact in what they are passionate about. Her belief in freedom of expression held strong even when the Fence was taken over by Kappa Sigma on the night of Sept. 24.
“Another exciting thing is that the frat took the Fence, and that’s an example of freedom of expression too,” Boyd said. “Now they are coexisting with the shantytown, which just reinforces what it means to be a part of Carnegie Mellon.”
As Boyd states, the Fence is a way to express the frustrations and passions of the people, but it is also a way to document some of the major themes that have surrounded the G20.
Flip to B8 to read more on the art of the shantytown at the Fence.