The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Wende Gozan Brown at 212-633-4247, or
Folabi Olagbaju at 202-256-0571,

Hundreds Gather in Pittsburgh to Tackle Pressing Human Rights Concerns; Environmental Rights, Death Penalty Are Front and Center

Amnesty International Human Rights Conference Highlights Organization’s 50th Anniversary, Takes Place Nov. 19-21


Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) will bring together hundreds of activists from five mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia from November 19-21 for the organization's annual regional human rights conference. This year's theme, Shine A Light: 50 Years of Activism, highlights Amnesty International's 50th anniversary and spotlights some of the most critical human rights issues today. Open to the public, the event will take place at the Omni William Penn Hotel, 530 William Penn Place, Pittsburgh. The cost of attendance ranges from $40 to $75, on a sliding scale.

"This is a landmark year for Amnesty International and its more than 2.8 million members worldwide," said Folabi Olagbaju, AIUSA's Mid-Atlantic regional director. "As we approach our 50th anniversary, our mid-Atlantic activists will show Pittsburgh the organization's powerful legacy of defending individual freedoms and human dignity. From the death penalty to tackling extreme poverty, our membership from Pittsburgh and beyond has demonstrated the dedication needed to effect real change."

Opening the conference on Saturday, AIUSA Executive Director Larry Cox will highlight a half century of successful human rights activism. Other keynote speakers include Mexico's Rodolfo Montiel Flores, a former Amnesty International "prisoner of conscience" who was wrongly imprisoned for more than a year and a half on drug- and firearm-related charges after authorities extracted a confession under torture. He will speak about his struggles to protest multinational corporations' clear-cut logging in his country and how the support of Amnesty International members helped secure his freedom. Ellen Dorsey, executive director of Wallace Global Funds and former chair of AIUSA's Board of Directors, will look to the next frontier of the human rights struggle as AIUSA prepares for its next 50 years of human rights work.

At 4:30 p.m. on Mellon Square (across from the Omni William Penn hotel), more than 200 activists will kick off the organization's 50th anniversary by joining an aerial art project. Using the anniversary theme of Shine A Light, participants will form the iconic Amnesty International candle and barbed-wire logo and illuminate it at dusk with LED lights. Media can photograph and film the event from the upper stories of the hotel. The project will mark Amnesty International's presence in Pittsburgh and will serve as a model for similar activities in communities throughout the mid-Atlantic region during the 50th anniversary year.

Next conference-goers will attend a special Saturday evening forum on community human rights co-sponsored by the United Steel Workers Union (USW) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The forum, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., is designed to connect priority AI campaigns with important human rights issues in the community. Speakers include Celeste Taylor of the Regional Equity Monitoring Project (REMP); Fred Redmond, USW's international vice president; Gayle Moss, president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); and Witold "Vic" Walczak, legal director of ACLU-Pennsylvania. AIUSA Deputy Executive Director Gouri Sadhwani will moderate.

On Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., activists will explore key areas of Amnesty International's work as former prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders share their stories, followed by a question and answer session. Ray Krone, who was exonerated from Pennsylvania's death row after being imprisoned for two years and eight months years for a crime he did not commit. Clare Johnson, a maternal health advocate whose sister died after childbirth, and Rodolfo Montiel Flores will address the crowd.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers who campaign for universal human rights from more than 150 countries. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people - no matter who they are or where they are. We are the world's largest grassroots human rights organization.

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