Rev. Smith confirms G-20 tent city and march

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Monumental Baptist Church Pastor Tom Smith and members of the New York-based group “Bail Out The People” said the city of Pittsburgh, the state and federal government need to focus on employment, not where protesters can and cannot congregate.

“We feel that we need people to stand up and be vocal,” said Rev. Smith. “We need to make sure people have decent jobs to realize the American dream.”

Speaking from a lot adjoining his church where a tent city will stand for unemployed and homeless G-20 protesters, Rev. Smith, who is still seeking volunteers to help the tent city and a march for jobs scheduled for Sept 20, said the site would take “as many as we can” and would be outfitted with port-o-johns and would have water for drinking and bathing.

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MAKING A STAND—Rev. Tom Smith of Monumental Baptist Church, third from left, joins members of “Bail Out The People” to announce a Sept. 20 march for jobs at the site of a “tent city” for homeless and unemployed G-20 protesters.

 

“People have to sleep somewhere,” said Rev. Smith. “Should they be denied the opportunity to come because they can’t afford a hotel?”

Rev. Smith and Bail Out the People spokesman Larry Holmes decried the city denying permits applications for G-20 protesters to use Point State Park, instead allowing police and additional security personnel to use the park for staging. The city has also denied requests to allow protesters to sleep in East Park on the North Side.

“We’re not interested in talk about permits and troublemakers,” said Holmes. “People are suffering, they need jobs.”

Bail Out the People, now a national organization, grew out of frustration following the federal government’s giving billions to failing banks but doing nothing for those thrown out of work due to the economic downturn.

Initial plans had called for a massive march with civil rights and union protesters to be bused in from other cities including Detroit, Mich., Chicago, Ill. and New York City. But Holmes said the city’s concentration on security has dampened those efforts.

This (march) is going to be a peaceful event,” he said. “This is going to be an orderly event.”

As for permits, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said several groups seeking permits would be given provisional approvals for events in Downtown, the North Side, the Strip District and the South Side. He also said two “protest zones” would be set up near the convention center.

However, on Aug. 24, city council failed to approve emergency legislation Ravenstahl wanted that would allow the city to accept $14.3 million in federal and state G-20 aid, which would leave an estimated $1.7 million gap for the city to fill. Council also did not vote on legislation to prohibit protesters from wearing masks to conceal their identities and a prohibition on carrying implements that could be used to prevent crowd dispersal by police.

The American Civil Liberties Union has already objected to the latter provision and Council President Doug Shields said it would probably require a public hearing.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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