G-20 Opponents Mapping Strategy of Protests, Lawsuits

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

G-20 Opponents Mapping Strategy of Protests, Lawsuits

by
Dennis B. Roddy

Jules Lobel, a University of Pittsburgh professor and vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, speaks at East Liberty Presbyterian Church during the meeting held by various groups looking to protest the upcoming G-20 summit. (Michael Henninger / Post-Gazette)

A coalition of groups opposed to the G-20 met last night to plan
what appears to be shaping up as a 21st Century battle for Fort Pitt --
saying the city has blocked plans to protest.

Some hinted at civil disobedience, others at civil litigation.

"I've always had it in the back of my mind about civil disobedience
and being arrested," said Kathy Cunningham, a Sharpsburg woman who said
she has long experience marching in the streets, but none to date
waiting in a jail cell.

The dilemma over when, where and how to take to the streets,
emerged, protest leaders said, after the city failed to approve a
series of permits sought by a range of groups.

Code Pink and several other groups sought a permit for a tent city
at Point State Park and say they were turned down because the police
and Secret Service want to use it as a staging area during the Sept.
24-25 meetings.

A spokeswoman for the city law department said that several permits
are still under consideration and that none has been rejected outright.
Several speakers last night insisted that their permit applications had
been either rejected or stonewalled.

Yvonne Hilton, an attorney with the city's law department, said
earlier this week that one permit has been approved in part, but that
final approval on any spaces in the city would depend on the Secret
Service.

The G-20 meeting, a gathering of heads of state and finance
ministers of major industrialized and emerging countries, has been
declared a special national security event, placing the federal
government in charge of final security preparations.

Last night's meeting, held in a sweltering second-floor room at East
Liberty Presbyterian Church, focused on how to secure Point State Park.
Protest leaders noted the park, site of the former Fort Pitt, is far
from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the location of the
meeting.

"Point State Park is perfectly reasonable," said Jules Lobel, a
University of Pittsburgh law professor. "We shouldn't get shunted to
some backwater."

The problem, according to the city, is that Point State Park is
already spoken for. The city of Pittsburgh filed an application Aug. 5
to reserve the former site as a staging area.

"We march and demonstrate no matter what," said Ginny Hidebrand, a
dog groomer from Point Breeze and volunteer at the Center for
Constitutional Rights. "Permit or no permit, we have to peacefully
defend our First Amendment guarantees."

By mid-meeting, no concrete decisions had been made, other than to press City Council for a hearing on the permits.

Some, such as Albert Petrarca, a Highland Park resident active with
the Palestine Solidarity Committee, suggested a two-track struggle:
litigate for the permits and, if it becomes necessary, plan for mass
arrests.

"It seems to me the only thing they're going to listen to is the
threat of non-violent civil disobedience," Mr. Petrarca said. "We
should be filling these jails. We should be filling them willingly; we
should be filling them joyfully."

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