Groups planning G-20 protests denied permits from city
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Groups planning to protest the G-20 summit in September are in various stages of organizing, but many are finding their plans to march or assemble for workshops or demonstrations stymied by permit denials from the city.
A Women's Coalition, made up of the Pittsburgh chapters of anti-war group Code Pink, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and other groups, wanted to hold a "Women's Tent City," from Sunday, Sept. 20 through Sept. 24 and 25, when the G-20 summit will be held.
The tent city would house workshops discussing subjects like the impact of war on children, globalization, and Islam and women, said Edith Bell, the coordinator for the Pittsburgh branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
The Women's Coalition applied for a permit with the Pittsburgh police to congregate near the Heinz History Center in the Strip District, but they were told they most likely wouldn't get it, so they sent in another permit for Point State Park.
The news that State Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, was denied a permit request for a G-20 rally in Point State Park means the Women's Coalition probably won't obtain that permit either, Ms. Bell said.
Mr. Ferlo told the Post-Gazette that an e-mail from the city special events coordinator denied the permit request because the Secret Service and Pittsburgh police have a permit for use of the park.
"We haven't decided what we are going to do," Ms. Bell said. "I feel by not giving permits the city is creating a situation where people will protest without permits because we have the right to free speech, the First Amendment, and they can't ship us off somewhere."
The G-20 summit will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center with leaders from 20 of the world's major industrial and developing nations. The G-20 Media Support Team, a special hub for groups organizing demonstrations around the summit, lists about 20 organizations planning to hold events.
One of the organizations listed is the Thomas Merton Center, a Pittsburgh action group for projects related to peace and social justice. They are planning a march from Oakland to Downtown on Sept. 25, with other groups joining them from different locations along the way, said Melissa Minnich, the center's communications director.
The purpose of the march is to start conversations about how the G-20 will affect people individually, Ms. Minnich said.
"Public education is much more the aim," she said. "I don't think that anyone's intention is to disrupt for the sake of disrupting."
The Thomas Merton Center applied for a permit to march from Oakland to the City-County Building, Downtown. It is still waiting for final approval from the Pittsburgh police, Ms. Minnich said. She said the police told her the Secret Service would have the final say about where people can demonstrate.
Joyce Wagner, the president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, decided to avoid the permit process. The applications are long, tedious and likely to be fruitless, she said. Her organization is planning a nonviolent, legal march on sidewalks Downtown to an undisclosed public space on Sept. 25 prior to the Thomas Merton's Center march.
They plan to take part in the Women's Coalition's "Tent City," but that plan is uncertain since permits haven't been granted yet.
"People do have the right to free speech, and if they are not going to provide us with the proper avenues to express that right, I am a little afraid for what might happen," she said.
Most of the demonstrations and protests are still in the planning stages, and several groups plan to host speakers to talk about the economic impact of G-20 policies. Students for Radical Change and Liberation, a group of University of Pittsburgh students, is organizing a panel and is still in the process of securing school funding and a location.
People's Voices, a coalition of the Institute for Policy Studies, The Nation Magazine, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), Pittsburgh United and other organizations, plans to host three events the week of the summit, including a panel with former World Bank Vice President and Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz. The Three Rivers Climate Convergence hopes to hold a climate justice camp in Point State Park.
Members of G 6 Billion, an interreligious group formed to represent all the people not present at the G-20 discussions, hoped to march from the Smithfield United Christian Church, Downtown, to the Convention Center on Sept. 20, but their permit was denied, organizer Wanda Guthrie said. They applied for a Point State Park permit, but are doubtful they will get it.
"We'll have to have a big meeting to think about what we are going to do," she said.
First Published August 15, 2009 12:00 am