Authorities Open Pre-G-20 Dialogue With Activists

July 16
PITTSBURGH — Law enforcement is trying to make connections with various groups in the Pittsburgh area, hoping to keep peace during expected protests at the G-20 economic summit.

WTAE Channel 4’s Bob Mayo reported that District Attorney Stephen Zappala is reaching out to the American Civil Liberties Union and activist groups to try to preclude problems when world leaders gather at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Sept. 24-25.

“It’s my hope that these dialogues and providing a forum for people to express their position is going to minimize the need to arrest people,” Zappala said.

Vic Walczak, of the ACLU’s Pittsburgh chapter, said the communication is encouraging.

“And my understanding from talking to my colleagues from around the county where they’ve had either political conventions or they’ve had the G-20, there has not been universal outreach,” Walczak said.

The Thomas Merton Center is a Pittsburgh-based peace and social justice organization that has been active for decades in the city’s Garfield neighborhood.

“I think that Pittsburghers are smart enough to understand fear-mongering when they see it. I think that there’s a good deal of that going on,” said Leah Samuel, of the Merton Center.

“The police need to be very careful that they don’t approach this with the mindset that anybody who’s carrying a sign or expressing dissident message is a terrorist or a criminal, because they’re not,” Walczak said.

“If everybody concludes that we’re going to do as much as we can to provide a forum for people to express their positions, we’re hoping that minimizes the need for confrontation and for property damage and the types of things that happened (at the G-20) in Seattle,” Zappala said.

Channel 4 Action News has been trying — but so far unable — to reach some local anarchist organizations and ask them about their plans for protest during the G-20 summit.

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