Monday, December 14, 2009

ACLU Expands Suit Over G20

The American Civil Liberties Union has expanded its civil rights lawsuit against the city of Pittsburgh, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Public Safety Director Michael Huss, Police Chief Nate Harper, Assistant Chief William Bochter and City Parks Assistant Director Michael Radley in connection with the G20 Summit.
ACLU Legal Director Vic Walczak says the suit alleges that city officials adopted a strategy to "harass, intimidate, discourage and ultimately prevent Three Rivers Climate Convergence and the Seeds of Peace Collective from exercising their constitutionally protected rights of free speech."
However, the environmental group was permitted to set up a camp in Schenley Park for the 3 days leading up to the G20 Summit. They were not allowed to be in the park on the first day of the summit because of its proximity to the site of the working dinner of the G20 leaders.
Walczak says since that the decision from the judge to allow the Schenley Park demonstration came just 5 days in advance, their efforts to organize and recruit people was severely limited.
Walczak says Seeds of Peace, a group that travels the country feeding demonstrators, were monitored and harassed from the day they arrived in Pittsburgh including having their bus impounded and 3 members detained briefly.
No federal officials have been named in the suit but according to Walczak "that's the $64,000 question, whether the 'feds' were lurking in the background." He says the lawsuit can always be amended in the future if they find evidence of wrongdoing by federal officials.
The suit seeks unspecified damages. There's no comment at this time from city of Pittsburgh officials.

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