Pittsburgh Awaits Calls to Action as Activists Prepare for Protests

By Jeremy Boren; Adam Brandolph | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 2, 2009 | Go to article overview

Pittsburgh Awaits Calls to Action as Activists Prepare for Protests


Jeremy Boren; Adam Brandolph, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Public works crews placed jersey barriers and civic banners Saturday, while activists prepared for marches and protests -- all marking Pittsburgh as a city-in-waiting for the pomp, and possible turmoil, to accompany the Group of 20 summit meeting here Thursday and Friday.

Leaders from 19 countries and the European Union will attend meetings at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, attracting protesters on a range of issues from job creation and health care to the environment and cuts in social services.

Protests and marches are scheduled today Downtown and in the Hill District, where The March for Jobs gets under way at 2 p.m. in Monumental Baptist Church on Wylie Avenue and ends at Freedom Corner at Centre Avenue and Crawford Street. Volunteers passed out fliers yesterday in the Hill District to get the word out.

"It's a profound movement," said Steve Kirschbaum as he distributed fliers. He is one of a half-dozen school bus drivers from Boston who arrived here Friday. "People are getting sold out, and it's the height of hypocrisy. While they're busy bailing out big banks, they don't think about the jobless and the homeless. We want to make sure the focus is where it should be."

In Polish Hill, about a dozen people attended a workshop to train street medics, who will accompany protest groups on events throughout the week.

"As Pittsburgh EMS renders first aid inside the police lines, we'll be rendering first-aid to people outside the police lines," said Charles Schiavone, 39, a volunteer firefighter from Conneaut, Ohio, who described himself as an anarchist.

About 120 street medics will be deployed. They will be able to recognize life-threatening conditions and treat people or else get them help from licensed professionals, he said. Street medics were some of the first to respond to the injured after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, he said.

Schiavone said most injuries he's seen at past events are accidental or weather-related. Rarely has he seen injuries inflicted by other protesters or police officers, he said.

Rows and rows of jersey barriers lay in waiting along Downtown streets yesterday evening, offering a sense of what might come. The convention center was relatively quiet. Fresh plywood went up around the glass windows of the Huntingdon Banking Office at Seventh and Smithfield.

A few blocks away on Liberty Avenue, a three-man crew placed pro- Pittsburgh banners on a vacant storefront. A Public Works dump truck rolled past with two more large concrete barriers.

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