Council OK's limits on items protesters can use during G-20
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Bringing a pipe, padlock or rotten egg Downtown for the G-20 summit next week won't automatically get you arrested. But if police think you're going to use those things against them, it could land you a $300 fine.
That's the result of a City Council vote yesterday on legislation by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration with the goal of keeping demonstrators from locking themselves together, or pelting police with harmful or gross liquids.
A council that balked at the legislation on Tuesday changed its tune after Public Safety Director Michael Huss personally made the case.
"No one is trying to stop someone who needs to make a pipe repair from taking PVC pipe Downtown," he said. A bunch of people with pipes and an obvious "purpose" of linking themselves would be a different story. "We would like to have the police stop them, cite this ordinance, and eliminate the problem before we have to physically remove them."
"I'll vote for anything that's going to go and protect the protesters, the public, and the law enforcement officers," said Councilman Jim Motznik.
Thanks to council's amendments, the police powers it creates expire when this month ends. Also, police can act only when they detect a nefarious "purpose," while the original legislation required them to gauge the actor's "intent."
Council had already removed a list of rifles from the array of items that can trigger enforcement. Still on the list are pipes, handcuffs, chains, carabiners and padlocks if held for the purpose of blocking public access.
Mr. Huss said he wants police to stop protesters from creating "sleeping dragons," in which people use materials to secure themselves in tough-to-break formations. Police faced the formation in Lawrenceville in 2007, and it took hours to disconnect protesters.
"Inside of PVC pipe are their arms and hands," said Mr. Huss. Using cutting tools on a pipe that contains peoples' limbs is "a big drain on our public safety resources" and "there is inherent danger involved."
Also potentially triggering enforcement are gas masks, projectile launchers, human or animal waste or blood, rotten eggs, acid, gasoline, gases or sprays and alcohol, if the purpose is to foil a police crowd dispersal order.
The only no vote came from William Peduto. "We're overreaching in order to stop a small group of people who don't give a damn what we do," he said.
First Published September 17, 2009 12:00 am