Proposed new rules meant to help police handle G-20 protests faced a barrage of verbal rotten eggs yesterday at a Pittsburgh City Council public hearing, and appear to be headed for a close vote.
The hearing was held to get views on rules that would allow police to cite people wearing masks or carrying items from pipes to high-powered rifles if they appear intent on thwarting police dispersal orders. It became an outlet for concern about what some called the pending militarization of Downtown, and what others characterized as the demonization of protest.
“The real message that I’m hearing is that Pittsburgh welcomes the world, except those who choose to dissent and exercise their free-speech rights,” said David Meiern, a veteran protester, who then donned a polar bear mask while addressing council.
“Why am I wearing this polar bear mask, you might ask,” Mr. Meiern said. “It may be that I want to commit a crime, or it may be that the ice upon which polar bears are depending is melting as we speak.”
Many speakers yesterday complained that Pittsburgh is extending the red carpet to leaders who are taking the world down a perilous course, while putting up an iron curtain against those concerned about war, economic justice or the environment.
“We are not terrorists, sirs or madams, we are not,” said Cecilia Wheeler, of Knoxville, a member of the Thomas Merton Center. “We are the good apples here. We want [summit delegates] to see overall that this is a small town with values, that welcomes everyone, that discriminates against no one.”