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September 11, 2009
2:49 PM

CONTACT: Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)

Alison Roh Park, CCR, 212-614-6480,
Sara Mullen, ACLU, 215-592-1513 ext. 122,

Rights Groups Sue Authorities for First Amendment Violations in Advance of G-20 Summit

Attorneys Call Denial of Permits to Activist Groups Bogus

PITTSBURGH, PA - September 11 - Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on behalf of groups seeking to hold peaceful demonstrations in downtown Pittsburgh where the Group of 20 summit (G-20) will take place later this month. The complaint charges the U.S. Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the City of Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources with violating the groups' constitutional rights to free speech.

The plaintiffs include: CODEPINK; Pittsburgh Women For Peace; 3 Rivers Climate Convergence; Thomas Merton Center; Pittsburgh Outdoor Artists; Bail Out The People and G-6 Billion. The complaint was filed after repeated efforts to negotiate with the city regarding the permits.

"The City is unjustified in denying permits to these peaceful protestors," said CCR Vice President Jules Lobel. "We hope the court will uphold and protect the core American values of free speech and the right to dissent."

"Despite working in good faith for weeks to resolve G-20 demonstration permits with the City of Pittsburgh and federal officials, demonstration organizers can wait no longer and will now pursue permit remedies in Federal Court," said ACLU-PA Legal Director Witold "Vic" Walczak.

"This is a struggle for our First Amendment rights," said Francine Porter, CODEPINK Pittsburgh Coordinator. "Refusing these permits takes away our right to educate the public about the G-20 agenda and how it relates to war, war funding and war's impact across the globe on mostly women and children."

"The G-20 is gathering in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis," said Molly Rush, co-founder of the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh. "Unrestrained profit-making by financial institutions and the deregulation and privatization of public resources have led to disaster for the vast majority of the world's people. Yet the people lack a voice in the proceedings."

The complaint alleges violations of the Constitution based on the following actions by the defendants:  1) refusal to issue permits to demonstrators for the use of Point State Park during the week of the G-20; 2) failure to issue permits for First-Amendment-protected activities in Pittsburgh's downtown; 3) refusal to issue a permit for a march by the Thomas Merton Center within a reasonable distance from the Convention Center on one day during the summit; and 4) refusal to allow demonstrators permission to stay overnight in several Pittsburgh parks.

To read the full complaint, click here.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, membership organization dedicated to defending and expanding individual rights and personal freedoms throughout the entire state of Pennsylvania. Visit

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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