City council delays giving police new powers for G-20
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Pittsburgh City Council balked at giving final approval today to legislation that could give police new powers in advance of anticipated G-20 Summit protests, putting the matter off until tomorrow.
Council members said they have not gotten clear responses from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration to concerns they've had with the proposed ordinance allowing police to cite people for having an array of items if they detect intent to defy a crowd dispersal order.
"No piece has garnered more controversy in terms of the G-20 than these two public safety pieces," said Councilman Bruce Kraus, referring to both the bill on items and a similar proposal on masks, which was defeated. "These bills, in my opinion, have not received resounding support, nor engagement, from the administration."
Council was set to cast a final vote on the legislation on items, but instead pushed it back until tomorrow, just eight days before the start of the summit at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The vote to postpone was 7-2, with the two no votes -- Council President Doug Shields and William Peduto -- arguing for voting the matter down entirely.
"We have laws on the books," said Councilwoman Tonya Payne. "If people don't follow the laws, we have law enforcement to deal with that."
Before today's action, council removed from the legislation a reference to a defunct assault weapons ban. The inclusion of references to "contraband weapon[s]" had upset gun rights advocates, who viewed it as a stealth attempt to ban high-powered weapons. But left in were bans on carrying pipes, handcuffs, chains, carabiners, padlocks, noxious or toxic substances, gas masks, projectile launchers, human or animal waste or blood, rotten eggs, acid, gasoline, gases or sprays, and alcohol if there is intent to use it to thwart crowd control.
"You can walk Downtown during the G-20 with a gun hidden under your coat, but you will not be allowed to walk around with a piece of PVC pipe," said Mr. Peduto. "It's a way to quell speech."
Legislation to allow police to cite people for wearing masks or hoods to conceal their identities with the intent of committing a crime got just two yes votes -- from Ricky Burgess and Jim Motznik -- and seven no votes, meaning it is defeated finally. That prompted cheers from audience members who identified themselves as likely protesters during the G-20 Summit next week.
First Published September 15, 2009 2:08 pm