WPXI is reporting that a "Why Pittsburgh?" event held at the National Press Club by Pittsburgh mayor, Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County executive, Dan Onorato took a backseat to a banner unfurled by an organization called AVAAZ. The banner read, " Why is the greenest city silencing green voices?"
The banner was a reference to officials with the City of Pittsburgh who are seeking to pass new laws to restrict dissent and green technologies,such as composting toilets, while pretending to issue permits without the blessing of the Secret Service, who are the lead ringmasters of the upcoming G-20 circus and have the final say. The City insists that they are issuing protest permits, but with full knowledge that the Secret Service will deny the permits, at that point it will be do late to apply for permits or to mount a legal challenge. Summit protests may be novel to Lukey and Onorato, but they insult the intelligence of people who realize that this is how the game is played.
The following press statement has been issued on behalf of the particpants in this action:
Why is the “Greenest City” Silencing Green Voices? Activists Call for Free Speech and Climate Progress at the G20
Washington, DC — Environmental advocates hoping to influence G20 climate commitments are surprised to find that Pittsburgh is showcasing its green recovery while stalling permits and planning for a major crackdown on free speech activities during the summit. To show their frustration, they twice held up banners and were subsequently escorted out during a briefing on Pittsburgh and the G20 at the National Press Club this morning. The banners read “Why is the greenest city silencing green voices?”
The Pittsburgh meeting is the G20 leaders’ last chance to make progress on climate change policy before the expected deal at the UN talks in Copenhagen this December. President Obama has asked finance ministers to bring climate finance proposals, but negotiations are gridlocked. The stakes are high, and climate advocates intend to be part of the conversation by encouraging the G20 to be ambitious in creating a just and sustainable future.
And yet, the efforts of climate activists have thus far been thwarted and their first amendment rights denied along with other groups organizing free speech activities in Pittsburgh. Many groups, including the Three Rivers Climate Convergence and the Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Social Justice are still awaiting permits to hold peaceful marches and demonstrations.
While city officials and the secret secret service have failed to grant permits, the Pittsburgh City Council is considering legislation that would criminalize costumes, props, and signs and authorize police to arrest protesters based on suspected “intent” to disobey police orders. Parts of downtown will be heavily militarized under the $18 million security plan, severely limiting those hoping to have their voices heard.
“I find it ironic that peaceful climate activists working to influence the international climate agenda would be denied free speech in a city trying to tout it’s environmental credentials,” says Julie Erickson, a climate change fellow with Avaaz.org, “Pittsburgh isn’t quite as ‘green’ a city as officials claim.”
Pittsburgh is not only failing to encourage good environmental decisions at the international level during the G20. The city’s own air quality has repeatedly ranked worst in the nation and southwestern Pennsylvania is also home to dirty coal mining operations that destroy homes, pollute water sources, and fracture communities.
As G20 leaders prepare for the Pittsburgh summit, Climate activists and other organizers remain intent on making their voices heard. “We’ve got to show the G20 that it’s time for a global climate treaty that puts people’s needs over corporations’ profits.” says Morgan Goodwin, another organizer with Avaaz.org. “We are focused on making clear our demand for a global economy that is sustainable for all people and the planet; we just wish that Pittsburgh city officials were more on our side.”