As everyone in Old City revels in St. Patty's Day-douche mode (I readily admit I'm just jealous), about 30 protesters in Center City are speaking out against police brutality in Philly. They're set up at Broad and Locust streets, with the majority of folks being from the Uhuru Movement and Philadelphia Freedom Riders.
Check back later for video and photos we've got startern Josh Middleton (of Queer Bait fame) on the scene.
Editor's note: Yesterday, activists gathered outside of the EPA's Region III office at 16th and Arch to protest the truly hideous practice called mountaintop removal, in which coal companies literally dynamite mountains to gain easier access to the coal inside. We dispatched intern Emily Currier to the scene; she files this report:
To show solidarity for the people of Appalachia, a group of about 30 people, from college students to lifelong activists, rallied outside the Philadelphias EPA Region 3 office in the Monday morning cold. While coal mining may seem like a foreign concept to urbanites, many decisions about mining are made right here. Philadelphias EPA Region 3 office calls the shots in the Mid-Atlantic Region, meaning Delaware, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Currently, the office is reviewing 23 permits for mountaintop removal, a devastating form of strip mining that literally levels entire mountains.
Philly Against Coal, Philly Rising Tide, and Rainforest Action Network organized the demonstration to speak for people in West Virginia who, they say, dont have similar access to government officials. This morning's protest coincides with one at the EPA regional office in Atlanta.
Mountaintop removal has become a nationwide issue. From Philadelphia to Atlanta people are standing up to say its unacceptable," says Joshua Kahn Russell, a rally organizer and a Rainforest Action Network member.
The protesters, many of whom donned green hard-hats or white "Wind Field Tech" jumpsuits, held up predictable enough signage: Mountain Justice, Windmills Not Toxic Spills, etc. To chants of Its time to take a stand, EPA, lend us a hand, Robin Markle, of Philly Rising Tide, and Josh Yoder, a Temple student, approached EPA security to try to get a letter delivered to Shawn Garvin, the EPAs regional administrator.That latter requested thatEPA officials to do a flyover of the Appalachian Mountains and stop issuing permits. It pointed to recent scientific evidence about the sheer destructiveness of mountaintop removal.
An hour after the protest began, Markle and Yoder emerged from the office, and said their requests were granted. The letter was delivered and Jeffrey Lapp, an EPA official, came down to meet with the activists and agree to set up a future appointment. Which is, of course, something, and better than nothing.
CP contributor Daniel Schwartz was on the scene this past Thursday at an anti-foreclosure protest held at Sixth and Market. The protest was organized by the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, a national group combating "economic human rights violations."
As today's snowstorm slowly built, about sixteen members of Pennsylvania Friends of Animals (PFA) positioned themselves on two sidewalks in Independence National Historical Park to protest the horse-drawn carriage industry. They were there by dint of a hard-won permit from the Park, which gave them access to all sidewalks on Park property but prohibited them from gathering within 20 feet of the entrance or exit to a building, or within 12 feet of a pedestrian crossway.
The main group claimed some pavement on Sixth Street between Chestnut and Market Streets, in front of a line of horse-drawn carriages waiting for passengers. A smaller group stood near -- but not too near -- the corner of Fifth and Chestnut.
"To me, it's not really a rational restriction," said Leila Fusfeld, an organizer with PFA. "We could easily be right at that corner and not in the way of any pedestrian traffic. Or we could be here, outside that [12-foot buffer zone], and we could line up and block the whole sidewalk."
Instead, the Fifth-and-Chestnut group stood back with their signs and offered pamphlets to passersby. As City Paper stood with them for about 10 minutes, two separate pedestrians stopped and showed interest in the cause.
Back at the line of horse-drawn carriages, the carriage operators were unhappy about their new company -- though most agreed that, because of the weather, PFA's presence hadn't hurt business too much.
"I don't care on a day like today," said Ron Jones, an operator at the front of the line. "If it were 55 degrees, sunny Saturday, however, I'd have a major problem," Jones added. In his view, the PFA are "completely uneducated" about the way horses who pull carriages are actually treated.
"You know how long wild horses typically live?" he asked. "Eight years. You know how long these guys will live? Thirty-five, forty years." Jones said his shift ended at 1 p.m. today, but he stayed for the 2-5 p.m. demonstration because he didn't want to let it seem like the activists had successfully intimidated anybody.
But another horse-drawn carriage operator who only wanted to be identified by her first name, Stella, said that business has been seriously down lately -- even without a small crowd of protesters alongside the carriage line. "I worked four days this week and did no rides at all," she explained. "I'm not making any money. It's time for me to find another job."
Both Stella and Jones did acknowledge the PFA activists' right to demonstrate, but didn't opine on the hurdles the PFA had to overcome to get their demonstration permit. And that battle is far from over, in the opinion of Brandon Gittelman, the chief coordinator of the PFA's anti-horse-drawn-carriage campaign.
"I think the ACLU's going to continue to push for getting the rules of the Park and its permit system permanently changed on the books," he said, standing in the group next to the carriages, blowing on his fingers as snow began to swirl. "And just the simple fact that we had to apply for a permit -- I think that's something they're going to continue to pursue."
Independence Park grants activists permit to demonstrate this Saturday, but some restrictions apply.
When Pennsylvania Friends of Animals (PFA) demonstrate against the horse-drawn carriage industry this Saturday, they'll be able to gather on any sidewalk in the Independence National Historical Park in groups of up to twenty, soliciting petition signatures and distributing leaflets -- just so long as they're not within 20 feet of a building entrance or exit, or within 12 feet of a street corner.
Those were the terms of the permit negotiated between PFA and the Park over the past two days, and signed this afternoon by U.S. District Court Judge John Fullam. These terms may seem extreme for a free-speech demonstration on, well, the doorstep of Independence Hall (site of the signing of the U.S. Constitution).
After all, the buffer zones imposed on PFA are even more extreme than the buffer zones that used to exist around Pittsburgh abortion clinics before they were invalidated last month by the Third Circuit -- on the grounds that the existence of the zones intruded upon the First Amendment rights of abortion protestors.
And those weren't the most severe restrictions that the Park tried to attach to Saturday's permit. Originally, the Park asked that PFA demonstrators keep 20 feet away from "any pedestrian crossway", which would only leave them access to the very middle of each sidewalk.
In the end, according to ACLU attorney Mary Catherine Roper, Judge Fullam "split the baby". He ruled that activists could not gather within 12 feet of any crossway -- but could enter the 12-foot buffer zone to hand someone a leaflet and then retreat. "It is so much more than the Park Service was willing to give in the past that we consider it a great victory," Roper said.
Still unresolved, of course, is the issue of why activists should have to hire ACLU attorneys and sue Independence Park before they're granted one of the most basic freedoms guaranteed to U.S. citizens. But one step at a time. City Paper will be at the PFA protest on Saturday to see how well both sides honor the permit.
Intrepid CP contributor Daniel Schwartz went to some protest today that we didn't even know about, and wrote about it. So here's his report.
Today, at 11 a.m., the Poor Peopleâs Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) led a protest against the wave of foreclosures sweeping across Philadelphia and the rest of the country. National Organizer for the PPEHRC, Cheri Honkala, directed the protest at Sixth and Arch, assembling more than 60 individuals and representatives from local groups like the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, Casino Free Philadelphia, and Pennâs anti-poverty activist group, Penn Haven.
With the housing crisis hitting poor homeowners especially hard, hundreds of thousands across the country have either had their houses foreclosed or are vulnerable to going "underwater.â Explaining the protest, Honkala pulls out a barrage of statistics. "Every 13 seconds, a house goes into foreclosure here in Philadelphia.â Depending on whose statistics you look at, anywhere from 10,000 to 16,000 Philadelphia homeowners have been evicted due to foreclosure since the markets crashed last year. In a recent New York Times article Philadelphiaâs primary civil court received accolades for providing the nationâs most successful foreclosure reconciliation program. But Honkala disputes the notion. "Itâs not that Philadelphia has been the best at preventing foreclosure, itâs that weâve been the best at delaying it.â Honkala exhales with exasperation and asks, "Is it really so great that we know how to drag out the inevitable?â
Tim, a worker for the Kensington Welfare Rights Union describes the situation as madness. "You have a stressed-out banking system that somehow makes it cheaper to foreclose on a homeowner rather than modify their loan payments. You can use all the economic theory you want to justify that fact, but at the end of the day, itâs insane.â Other protesters, like Jimmy Tobias from Penn Haven, chanted about the city having more vacant properties than homeless people. "How does our government justify a commitment to spend billions bailing out the banks and on the Afghan War but canât find the money to house its own citizens?â
The protesters marched and rolled in wheelchairs from the Federal building to Sixth and Market where they clogged the busy crossroads. Police threatened to arrest the activists as they blocked all four sides of the intersection before the crowd finally consolidated and traffic resumed.
"If the situation doesnât change,â Honkala called through her megaphone, "weâll be back here in late January with at least 1,000 people. Thatâs a promise.â
|Photo | Nate Boguszewski|
|For more of Nate's G20 photos, click the photo or here.|
Matt Stroud is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer. Heâs written for City Paper about porn star Stoya, subterranean Philadelphia, juvenile life sentences and anarchist newspaper The Defenestrator. He writes regularly at True/Slant (where this piece first appeared) and will be filing daily reports from the G20 Summit this week.
Today's protests seemed surprisingly peaceful. At least where I was marching with I'd guess about 2,000 people along Fifth Avenue from Oakland toward the City County Building the streets had been blocked off, police and military were posted on sidewalks and sidestreets, and no authority figure was (as far as I could see) instructed to intervene forcibly. This was, as advertised, a "sanctioned" rally which apparently means no one gets gassed. Knowing this, one might ask: Why didn't Pittsburgh Organizing Group the Anarchist group largely responsible for yesterday's gathering get a permit to lawfully assemble yesterday?
A Post-Gazette article last week working off a press release implied POG's mission was to wreak havoc. But speaking to a few sources today who asked not to be named (because that's what many young Anarchists tend to do) POG applied for permits through the city and were denied.
"They go through the same horseshit at every political event like this," said my unidentified source. "[The City tells] every organizer a host of totally inconsistent things about what's required to get a permit, then they change their story consistently until the week before the event. They hand out permits seemingly at random and that's the plan to disrupt and disorganize any semblance of unity."
Take what you will from that. Obviously, both the City of Pittsburgh and POG have interests in this regard:
- First, it vilifies police if they're forced to violently repress "peaceful protesters." This morphs into positive marketing for POG who can use the police's tear gas and fired pellets as activist ammunition for future anti-capitalist rallies.
- On the other hand, it makes the city look supportive if they treat permitted protesters well; it makes them look strong if they have no trouble censuring groups who haven't filled out the proper forms.
If POG did, in fact, apply for and get denied for permits, why did the city refuse their application and support today's protest instead? Is it possible that was the best option for everyone?
Anyway. While we're on the topic of unclear messages: The legendary Dave Mansueto posted some interesting footage from the protests yesterday, where John Oliver, of Daily Show fame, made some pointed commentary about 1) Pittsburgh's ridiculous police presence and 2) the protests general lack of cohesion:
The police do, in fact, have their message straight.
Check next week's print issue for answers and commentary about G20 and Pittsburgh's moment in the international spotlight.
Matt Stroud is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer. He's written for City Paper about porn star Stoya, subterranean Philadelphia, juvenile life sentences and anarchist newspaper The Defenestrator. He writes regularly at True/Slant (where this piece first appeared) and will be filing daily reports from the G20 Summit this week.
So perhaps I'll be the billionth newsperson to report I was tear gassed this afternoon, but maybe that's a good thing.
Earlier this morning, as briefly discussed, I camped out at the New and Glimmering August Wilson Center. on Liberty Ave., about 300 feet from G20's host location, The David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Walk outside, into the empty corridor by the Convention Center in the "red zone"; the second-to-highest security area in the city and watch a group of Buddhist protesters, actual monks in robes, chanting and waving signs in an effort to Save Burma or encourage G20 leaders to give a shit about Burma. Ethiopians show up next, file in across the street. They're here from Philadelphia to "free Africa from dictators!" "G20 stop assisting genocide in Africa!" I stop to talk with one of them and she tells me both of her brothers have been imprisoned by Meles Zenawi. There is a language barrier, but I'm gradually getting more of the story: her brother was imprisoned at a political protest in 2003... perhaps the Anuak Conflict? He remains incarcerated. I'm about to get more information but as this conversation is going on about 300 cops emerge out of nowhere, make a right off Smithfield and march down Liberty Ave. It's enough to make both of us stop and stare. The cops reach the giant metal fence that's been erected at Tenth St. and halt. They stand at attention in front of the monks, stay there for a full minute, threateningly, then turn around and leave.
|Troopers march down Liberty Ave. in Pittsburgh|
"What is dis?" the Ethiopian woman asks me and I can do nothing but shrug. I have no idea. Where am I? Her colleagues begin yelling and I realize I've got tears in my eyes.
It was widely advertised that a major rally was being organized this afternoon at Arsenal Park in Lawrenceville. Much of the city has been shut down the roads inaccessible and blocked by marines, state troopers, and metro police from as far away as Louisville and I'm forced to bike a mile or so out of my way to get there. En route, I run into five kids standing around with those giant posters of bloody dead fetuses handing out pamphlets talking about the "shocking horror of abortion." They ask me if I've been saved and I tell them I have not been. I consider shadowing these kids but can't bring myself to focus all my coverage on the odd idiosyncrasies of the Faithful Soldier School of Evangelism. Maybe tomorrow. Onward.
The first things I notice biking up to the protest are that 1) Arsenal Park is encased in long stone walls, and 2) there are more journalists here than protesters; everyone seems to have either a camera or a notepad. Reverend Billy's Church of Stop Shopping is here and talking about the evils of capitalism a topic so trite in this environment that it's comical. I meet up with some Colleagues and sit in the sun, waiting. Chants begin and die in all directions. The lamest of these is:
Another, perhaps misplaced, considering the protests economic bases, is this:
"One, two, three, for
"we dont want your racist war.
"Five, six, seven, eight,
"no more killing, no more hate."
An anarchist himself, aged and wise, perhaps a bit jaded, one of my colleagues begins his own chant:
This one dies the fastest.
The actual protest begins around 2:30pm and my abortion friends have shown up with some of their elder friends and a megaphone. They battle for airspace with anarchists who have also brought megaphones. There's literal anarchy for a moment made even worse when the Birthers I met earlier show up with their own goddamn megaphone but regardless, marchers begin moving toward the exits chanting whatever.
The march has begun! And it's immediately stopped. Cops barricade the entrances with dogs and batons. The aforementioned colleague yells, extremely sarcastically, "Somebody call the police!" There's this weird twenty minutes or so where a couple hundred marchers ping pong from exit to exit, cops toying with them, until they're finally allowed to leave toward Liberty Ave.
Within two blocks of their Liberty entry point, police set up massive barriers with speakers atop giant military-style SWAT wagons and a recording blares out a notice that everyone "regardless of your purposes here" is part of an "unlawful assembly." The recording threatens that everyone will be forcefully detained or dealt with using "other police action" if they don't leave. Like now.
But the police have only blocked one street: Liberty Ave. So the crowd largely marches downhill toward Butler Street, and various arms of the march begin branching off onto other side streets. At one point, there's a kind of mutual gasp in the crowd (which is blocking several streets at this point) and everyone looks behind them to see a group of black clad protesters rolling a ten-foot-wide steel dumpster down a fairly steep hill. I bike behind them and follow down a side street where they're eventually stopped. The police recording blares once more, this time with a screeching warning tone. A few people around me say "Oh, shit" and then a cloud of smoke plumes upward from the street by the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. The smell is like a charred house after a fire strongly sour and filled with ammonia and ash. My eyes begin to well up with tears and my nose begins to tingle initially a twinge, then a pain, heat attacking my nostrils and throat. I begin coughing and so does everyone around me. "Take your contacts out of your eye," someone yells, and we flee, head back up Penn Ave. To avoid various police blockades, most in attendance shoot off into different directions. Penn Ave. is clear within ten minutes.
We notice people have begun sticking their heads out of windows. A colleague points out it's much like the Civil War everyone coming outside to watch the battle go down.
We receive word that the protest has amped up again at 34th and Liberty. At least 200 cops gather. There's a stalemate for at least an hour. I leave to file this report. As far as I know the stalemate is still going on. It'll go on all week if today's security measures are any indication.
- Tear gas flies in Pittsburgh at the G20 conference (Digital Journal)
- Teargas used on protesters at G20 summit in Pittsburgh (Guardian UK)
- For Pittsburgh, G-20 Meeting Is a Mixed Blessing (New York Times)
- Raw Video: An Up-Close View of the G20 Protests (The Associated Press)
- Ask A Man-About-Town
- Award Tour
- Bad Idea Factory
- Below the Curve
- Brian Hickey
- Budget Fuss
- City Council
- City Hall
- CP Abroad
- CP in the Community
- Criminal Justice System
- Day Tripper
- Death and Taxes
- Delaware River
- Dubious Distinction
- End of Days
- Film Fest
- Financial Meltdown
- Free Library
- Gay Stuff
- Get Lit
- Hall Monitor
- Health Care
- Hello, Kitty
- Ice Cubes
- In Memoriam
- Marcellus Shale
- MUST READ
- Mysterious Mysteries
- Non Sequitur
- PA politics 2010
- Parking Wars
- Parks and Recreation
- People Send Us This Stuff
- Philadelphia Police
- Philadelphia Union
- Philly From Scratch
- philly madness
- President Obama
- Print Edition
- Readers Write
- Real Estate
- Rock Bottom
- Screwing Philly
- So Lush
- Sporting Life
- Sports Complex
- State Politicians
- State Politics
- Street Art
- Stuff We Like
- Taxi Drivers
- Tech Fetish
- The Budget Crisis
- The City Paper
- The CLOG
- The Human Condition
- The Mayor
- The Phightin Phils
- The World
- Things that make you go hm
- Tinfoil Hats Off
- Under the Table
- Under the Tables
- Urban Development
- Urban Planning
- urban wildlife
- Video Poker
- We Call Shenanigans
- Web Junk
- Weekend Omnibus
- White House
- What We've Found
- Women's Issues
- Flyered Up!
- How 'Bout That Weather?
- it's always sunny in philadelphia
- get out
- 10-track mind
- Bruce Being Bruce
- Gigantic Surprises
- Hello Canary
- Hello Puppy
- get lost
- Inside The Fishbowl
- Library Closings
- Local Support
- Night Moves
- Skeeze Police
- State Politicians Screwing Philly
- That's a cool stencil!
- Things We See
- This Week
- This Week in Oates
- University City
- What we don't heart
- what we heart
- Feeling Guilty
- Broke in Philly
- Dear Paper Doll
- Do A Good Thing
- Film Fest Schism
- G20-20 Vision
- Great American Heroes
- Pearl Jam Week
- Stars of the Photostream
- Lower Merion Webcam-Gate
- The Cycle
- Equality Forum
- Bureaucrat of the Week