G-20 protesters allege police harassment in lawsuit

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Editor’s note: U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster on Sept. 22 rejected the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction. Lancaster said that if police violated the rights of Seeds of Peace, the violations had already taken place and the proper remedy would be monetary damages.

PITTSBURGH — Two protest groups filed a lawsuit yesterday asking for an
emergency hearing into allegations that Pittsburgh police harassed them in the
run-up to the Group of 20 global economic summit.

In their lawsuit, Seeds of
Peace and Three Rivers Climate Convergence accuse police of engaging in
“systematic attempts to harass and discourage lawful First Amendment

Seeds of Peace says its bus was illegally searched and seized over the
weekend. It also says its members were detained without cause. Three Rivers
Climate Convergence is making similar allegations.

The lawsuit was filed on the groups’ behalf by the American Civil Liberties
Union of Pennsylvania and the Center for Constitutional Rights. A hearing in the
case has been scheduled for today before U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster, who
issued a ruling last week in a separate lawsuit filed by G-20 protesters.

Three Rivers Climate Convergence focuses on the environment, while Seeds of
Peace promotes nonviolence. Seeds of Peace is not affiliated with the group by
the same name that promotes Israeli-Palestinian coexistence.

The groups are just two of possibly hundreds expected to protest against the
two-day summit when it convenes in Pittsburgh on Sept. 24. Thousands of
protesters have gathered at previous summits of the nearly two dozen world
leaders who control more than 85% of the world’s money.

Just blocks from the courthouse, about two dozen other protesters gathered
yesterday to stage a global warming “wakeup” call for world leaders.

A handful of police stood nearby but watched quietly, putting their hands in
their pockets at times.

The so-called “wakeup” call in Pittsburgh, organized by Avaaz.org, is part of
an international effort with 2,400 similar events worldwide aimed at persuading
world leaders to participate in a United Nations global climate conference
taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised yesterday to attend the
Copenhagen event, the first major world leader to make that commitment. The
protesters hope to persuade other key leaders, including President Barack Obama,
to do the same.

They began their event by having three people — dressed in pajamas and
bathrobes with images of Brown, Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel
covering their faces, blanketed by flags of each country — lie down in a small
park in downtown Pittsburgh.

At 12:18 p.m. — chosen to symbolize Dec. 18, the last day of the Copenhagen
conference — alarm clocks on cell phones of about two dozen other protesters
went off simultaneously and they rushed into the square, chanting “wake up,
climate action now.”

The protesters said they were going to launch a mass telephone campaign to
the White House in an effort to convince Obama to attend the Copenhagen

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