Editor’s Note: Follow Rob Eshelman’s dispatches from the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh at TheNation.com all week.
Pittsburgh plays host this week to the G-20 summit, a gathering of leaders of the world’s largest national economies and the European Union. And, as with many past international summits, protest groups are embroiled in legal battles over their ability to voice opposition to international political and corporate elites.
On Tuesday morning, lawyers for the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Center for Constitutional Rights presented arguments before US District Court Judge Gary Lancaster describing a pattern of unconstitutional searches and seizures on the part of local law enforcement against two protest groups–the Seeds of Peace Collective and the Three Rivers Climate Convergence (3RCC).
The ACLU/CCR suit, filed Monday, details how over the past several days Seeds of Peace workers have been systematically harassed by Pittsburgh police. This past Friday, police confiscated a school bus from which the group serves food to demonstrators. The group was able to retrieve the bus later that night but only after paying a fine. On Sunday, the Pittsburgh residence where the group was based was raided by more than thirty police officers armed with submachine guns, who demanded to search the premises for weapons.
Seeds of Peace Collective member Max Granger told The Nation: “By providing logistical support, primarily food and medical assistance for social justice mobilizing, Seeds of Peace is playing an integral role in making it possible for people to express their First Amendment rights. Because of this, we have become a primary target for those who wish to repress this expression, such as the Pittsburgh Police, Secret Service and Homeland Security.”
As of Tuesday at 3 pm, Judge Lancaster had not issued a ruling on the ACLU/CCR request for an injunction against further unconstitutional searches and seizures by Pittsburgh police.
Several groups, including 3RCC, have been denied permits for overnight camping in city parks during the week of demonstrations. The city has restricted use by protesters of several city parks to the hours of 6 am to 11 pm. 3RCC has set up a Climate Convergence Camp in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park. Another encampment highlighting the plight of women refugees, set up by Code Pink, is located in downtown Pittsburgh’s Point State Park.