G-20 protesters allege police harassment in suit
By Ramit Plushnick-Masti
PITTSBURGH — Two protest groups filed a lawsuit Monday asking for an emergency hearing into allegations that Pittsburgh police harassed them in the run-up to the Group of 20 global economic summit.
Seeds of Peace and Three Rivers Climate Convergence said in their lawsuit police are discouraging their rights to free speech. Seeds of Peace, a group that promotes Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, says its bus was illegally searched and seized over the weekend. It also says its members were detained without cause.
Three Rivers Climate Convergence, which focuses on the environment, is making similar allegations.
The groups are just two of possibly hundreds expected to protest against the two-day summit when it convenes in Pittsburgh on Thursday. Thousands of protesters have gathered at previous summits of the nearly two dozen world leaders who control more than 85 percent of the world's money.
Just blocks from the courthouse, about two dozen other protesters gathered Monday to stage a global warming "wakeup" call for world leaders.
A handful of police stood nearby but watched quietly, putting their hands in their pockets at times.
The so-called "wakeup" call in Pittsburgh, organized by Avaaz.org, is part of an international effort with 2,400 similar events worldwide aimed at persuading world leaders to participate in a United Nations global climate conference taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark in December.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised Monday to attend the Copenhagen event, the first major world leader to make that commitment. The protesters hope to persuade other key leaders, including President Barack Obama, to do the same.
They began their event by having three people - dressed in pajamas and bathrobes with images of Brown, Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel covering their faces, blanketed by flags of each country - lie down in a small park in downtown Pittsburgh.
At 12:18 p.m. - chosen to symbolize Dec. 18, the last day of the Copenhagen conference - alarm clocks on cell phones of about two dozen other protesters went off simultaneously and they rushed into the square, chanting "wake up, climate action now."
The protesters said they were going to launch a mass telephone campaign to the White House in an effort to convince Obama to attend the Copenhagen talks.