Photos from Block Party in Pittsburgh

G-20 activists want emphasis back on the economy


G-20 activists want emphasis back on the economy
Sunday, August 23, 2009
By Jerome L. Sherman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

City officials and local media have spent too much time focusing on disputes over protest permits and the possibility of violence during next month's G-20 summit, neglecting the serious economic concerns behind those protests, one group of activists said yesterday in the Hill District.

"We're not interested in all the talk about permits and troublemakers," said Larry Holmes, a spokesman for Bail Out the People and a community organizer from New York City. "People are suffering. They need jobs."

Mr. Holmes spoke with reporters on a grassy lot at the corner of Soho Street and Wylie Avenue in the Hill, where his group plans to launch a "national march for jobs" on Sept. 20, the Sunday before world leaders gather in Pittsburgh.

The site, owned by neighboring Monumental Baptist Church, will also host a tent city for unemployed and homeless people and their supporters from Sept. 20 through the end of the two-day summit, on Sept. 24 and 25.

"We feel that we need to stand up and be vocal," said the Rev. Thomas Smith, the church's pastor. "We need to make sure people have decent jobs to realize the American dream."

On Friday, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said all five groups seeking protest permits around the summit will be given conditional approvals for events in Downtown, the South Side, North Side and the Strip District. The city will also create two protest zones near the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

Bail Out the People, a national group based in New York that grew from outrage over the billions of dollars in government money given to failing banks last year, has asked for approval for its Hill District march and the use of Allegheny Commons Park on the North Side Sept. 19-25 and Market Square on Sept. 24 and 25.

Organizers are planning to start the march at 2 p.m. on Sept. 20, and it will end at the Hill's Freedom Corner.

Mr. Holmes said he was hoping for an "enormous" gathering, with potentially thousands of marchers, including prominent civil rights and union leaders. There are tentative plans for buses to come from New York City, Detroit, Chicago and other cities.

"We need everybody to know this is going to be a peaceful event. This is going to be an orderly event," Mr. Holmes said.

He and other organizers are concerned that Pittsburgh's heavy emphasis on security -- officials hope to have as many as 4,000 police officers on city streets -- will dissuade some people from participating in protests.

The Wylie Avenue tent city will allow people who can't afford to stay at hotels to be near Downtown during the summit.

"We'll take as many as we can," the Rev. Smith said.

He said the site would have Porta-Johns and water, and the church is seeking volunteers who can donate food or time to help organize the march and the tent city.

Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to call 412-780-3813 or send an e-mail to

Jerome L. Sherman can be reached at or 412-263-1183.
First published on August 23, 2009 at 12:00 am