Leaders Renew Push for Civil Rights

Article excerpt

A gathering of community leaders and activists Tuesday shows there's strong support for a renewed civil rights effort in Pittsburgh, a former City Council member said.

The meeting at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture was important because communication between the community and federal prosecutors has been lacking in the civil rights effort, said Sala Udin, president and CEO of the Coro Center for Civic Leadership.

"Just that, in itself, is a huge, positive sign," he said about the session with U.S. Attorney David Hickton and assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

Perez said in a news conference afterward that Hickton -- who took over federal prosecutions in Western Pennsylvania in August -- was one of the first U.S. attorneys to respond to Attorney General Eric Holder's call for dedicated civil rights units. The Obama administration's aim is to restore the federal government's role in civil rights enforcement, he said.

"Quite frankly, during the prior administration, civil rights was closed for business," Perez said.

Former U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan served eight years on the civil rights subcommittee of the attorney general's advisory committee. She said in a phone interview that civil rights was important nationally and locally.

"Civil rights was always a high priority throughout the last administration," she said.

Hickton added a civil rights section when he reorganized the office in October. …