The ACLU of Pennsylvania is investigating what appear to be unwarranted and overzealous arrests of University of Pittsburgh students and others at Schenley Plaza by police on the evening of the last day of the G-20 Summit, September 25. We have received reports that many people tried to follow police orders to disperse, but ended up trapped by the 1000 riot police encircling the area. The 100-plus arrestees included many curious, non-participating Pitt students and a few journalists.
It is unclear why, with the summit concluded and no indications of violence, the police insisted on dispersing the crowd in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh with tear gas, rubber bullets, and mass arrests.
If you witnessed or were the victim of police misconduct on the evening of September 25 or at anytime during the G-20 Summit, please contact the ACLU complaint line at 412-681-7736. Leave a message and someone will call you back to take your statement.
Below is an incomplete list of problems G-20 protestors encountered with law enforcement in Pittsburgh.
More G-20 related information (including legal cases) is available here.
Thursday, September 24
The City of Pittsburgh is prohibiting pedestrians from entering Schenley Park, the site of the G-20 meeting at Phipps Conservatory tonight. As a result, Three Rivers Climate Convergence, which has a permit to use the Schenley Meadows area of the park, cannot get access to its permitted area.
The parking lot adjacent to the Convention Center that Pittsburgh set up as a "free-speech zone" for protestors was closed to public access this morning. A local reporter and ACLU legal observers were turned away when they tried to enter the parking lot. Shortly thereafter, the entrance to the lot was opened to public access.
Over 20 ACLU and National Lawyers Guild Legal Observers have been dispatched to Arsenal Park in Lawrenceville where people (and media and cops) are gathering for an unpermitted march named the People's Uprising. Legal Observers are also stationed along the likely route of the march. This march is one of the anticipated flashpoints of the G20 protests.
Wednesday, September 23
Wednesday evening police once more appeared at the new location of Seeds of Peace Collective bus on the Northside. They arrived, showed force and left without any incident or interaction. Seems to have been just an attempt at intimidation.
Numerous vans of police and a Hazmat crew gathered across the street from the Pittsburgh G20 Resistance Group’s storefront convergence space in Greenfield shortly after a meeting of the group’s Spokescouncil (made up of representatives from numerous affinity groups) had been convened at 7:00 pm. After some 20-30 minutes of watching, as the meeting participants remained inside the building, the ACLU’s legal observer coordinator on the scene overheard the officer in charge commenting that it looked the call they received was turning out to be unsubstantiated, stating that they had received a 911 call that said 100 kids were swarming the street. Another person at the scene who claimed to have been monitoring a police scanner said no such call was put out. After numerous media outlets arrived and approached the officer for comment, he gestured for all of the officers to pack up and the caravan of police left without incident.
After the G20 Resistance Spokescouncil meeting broke up, a participant was pulled over for an alleged broken tail light. They police said it was routine stop but they impounded the vehicle for a discrepancy in the license plate which had not been updated from California to Pennsylvania residency, A dozen officers then proceeded to search the van and inventory all the property before it was impounded. Did we mention that the owner was with IndyMedia? The owner was allowed to take his possessions with him but was denied a copy of the inventory report, a copy of the ticket or contact information for any officer involved. The police informed him that he was “catching a break” and they could “cite him for more but didn’t”
Tuesday, September 22
The Seeds of Peace Collective and Everybody's Kitchen buses made their way from the parking lot of an abandoned school in Larimer to the parking lot of a Lutheran Church on the Northside today (Tuesday) after Pittsburgh police told the groups at 2 am that the property owner was no longer allowing the buses to be parked on the Larimer property. The groups found a Lutheran Church willing to let them park the buses in their parking lot and left the Larimer property at noon with three legal observers and an ACLU attorney in tow. A few hours after parking the buses at the Northside location, approximately 25 police officers surrounded the parking lot where the buses were parked but left after about half an hour.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 21
Police told owners of Sassafrass Street Property that they had to have an occupancy permit for buses to stay there. Pittsburgh City Code 922.02 governs requirements for getting a new occupancy permit, and it does not apply in this situation. There is no change of use to the property, which is already used to park vehicles.
Police cars surrounded a driveway at 7127 Thomas Boulevard, in Point Breeze, earlier this morning making it impossible for 3RCC's "Permaculture" bus to leave and go to PSP, where it was supposed to be parked for the festival.
A complaint was reported to the G-20 Helpline late Monday night about police going door to door in the neighborhood where the Seeds of Peace Collective's bus had been parked before it was towed by the City. The complainant reported that police officers opened the door to his house and yelled in asking if he had any out-of-towners staying with him and why he had an extension cord running from his home to his van.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 20
On Sunday, when organizers from Bail Out the People, a plaintiff in the Codepink lawsuit, arrived to set up at Freedom Corner for their rally, the Pittsburgh police told them they could not be in the street because they did not have a permit. Bail Out the People in fact did have a permit, which was issued after they filed suit on September 11. A call from Walczak to the Pittsburgh City Law Department resulted in the police recognizing the permit and closing a street to allow the rally to proceed.
Also on Sunday, another plaintiff in the Codepink lawsuit, G6 Billion, was told by police that they could not march through the 10th Street by-pass, below the Convention Center, because it was private property and they did not have a permit. The group was forced to march around the Convention Center. Subsequently, a police commander on the scene apologized to group leaders, saying he had not read the permit, which clearly allowed the group to march through the bypass. The property is also not "private," as it is owned by the Sports & Exhibition Authority, a government agency.
Also Sunday, Pittsburgh Police attempted to illegally enter a dwelling belonging to the Landslide Community, on Alequippa Street in the Hill District. The police then traipsed over private property, where the group grows food, without consent or a warrant. When an ACLU lawyer showed up the police told him that they were there just to remove some tires. There were more than 20 police officers in riot gear on the scene, a curious show of force just to remove some tires.
Pittsburgh police illegally stop and detain Michigan protestors on their way to Bail Out the People march for more than an hour.
Three people driving from Detroit to Pittsburgh to participate in the Bail Out the People march on Sunday were stopped by Pittsburgh police after they entered the city at approximately 3 pm on a bogus charge of failing to display a license plate. In fact, they had a valid, temporary license displayed in the car's rear window. After stopping the car, more than 15 police officers surrounded the car and demanded the driver's and two passengers' identification. Police questioned the car's occupants about why they were in Pittsburgh and who they were with, and recommended that they leave the city. After detaining the three for more than an hour, the police allowed them to leave and did not issue any citations.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 19
On Saturday, Pittsburgh police told people at CMU's outdoor camping space that all students without CMU ID's had to leave. CMU administrators arrived on the scene and countermanded that the City Police directive.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
Police told Bail Out the People on Friday that they could not use amplified sound from a vehicle driving around the Hill District without obtaining a permit. The City Code does not require a permit for such activity.
Also on Friday, in addition to the problems raised in the Seeds of Peace Collective lawsuit, that evening the police threatened to tow the other food bus, run by Everybody's Kitchen. The bus was legally parked on a private driveway in Point Breeze. The police claimed the bus was obstructing the sidewalk. The obstruction? The emergency ladder on the back of the bus was encroaching on the sidewalk by less than a foot. After they removed the ladder from the bus, the police demanded identification from everyone and proof of vehicle ownership.
WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 14
Police told Bail Out the People last week that they could not canvass door-to-door without a permit in the Hill District. The City Code does not require a permit and it would be unconstitutional to have such a requirement.