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Why is the “Greenest City” Silencing Green Voices? September 9, 2009

Posted by Julie in G20, Uncategorized.
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This morning, we at the action factory had an impressive showing at the National Press Club where representatives from Pittsburgh sought to explain “Why Pittsburgh” was chosen as the city for the G20 meeting that President Obama will host this September. The city officials are touting Pittsburgh’s economic revitalization and green initiatives over the last several years as an example for the world leaders to replicate elsewhere as they seek to address the global financial crisis and the global climate crisis during the G20. Yet they have been denying us climate advocates and our allies working on other issues the right to protest by not giving permits. So today we stood up and made our voices heard.

Watch video coverage on WPXI.com.

G20 Climate Protest at National Press Club

Here’s our press release:

Why is the “Greenest Sity” Silencing Green Voices?
Activists Call for Free Speech and Climate Progress at the G20

Washington, DC — Environmental advocates hoping to influence G20 climate commitments are surprised to find that Pittsburgh is showcasing its green recovery while stalling permits and planning for a major crackdown on free speech activities during the summit. To show their frustration, they twice held up banners and were subsequently escorted out during a briefing on Pittsburgh and the G20 at the National Press Club this morning. The banners read “Why is the greenest city silencing green voices?”

The Pittsburgh meeting is the G20 leaders’ last chance to make progress on climate change policy before the expected deal at the UN talks in Copenhagen this December. President Obama has asked finance ministers to bring climate finance proposals, but negotiations are gridlocked. The stakes are high, and climate advocates intend to be part of the conversation by encouraging the G20 to be ambitious in creating a just and sustainable future.

And yet, the efforts of climate activists have thus far been thwarted and their first amendment rights denied along with other groups organizing free speech activities in Pittsburgh. Many groups, including the Three Rivers Climate Convergence and the Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Social Justice are still awaiting permits to hold peaceful marches and demonstrations.

While city officials and the secret secret service have failed to grant permits, the Pittsburgh City Council is considering legislation that would criminalize costumes, props, and signs and authorize police to arrest protesters based on suspected “intent” to disobey police orders. Parts of downtown will be heavily militarized under the $18 million security plan, severely limiting those hoping to have their voices heard.

“I find it ironic that peaceful climate activists working to influence the international climate agenda would be denied free speech in a city trying to tout it’s environmental credentials,” says Julie Erickson, a climate change fellow with Avaaz.org, “Pittsburgh isn’t quite as ‘green’ a city as officials claim.”

Pittsburgh is not only failing to encourage good environmental decisions at the international level during the G20. The city’s own air quality has repeatedly ranked worst in the nation and southwestern Pennsylvania is also home to dirty coal mining operations that destroy homes, pollute water sources, and fracture communities.

As G20 leaders prepare for the Pittsburgh summit, Climate activists and other organizers remain intent on making their voices heard. “We’ve got to show the G20 that it’s time for a global climate treaty that puts people’s needs over corporations’ profits.” says Morgan Goodwin, another organizer with Avaaz.org. “We are focused on making clear our demand for a global economy that is sustainable for all people and the planet; we just wish that Pittsburgh city officials were more on our side.”

See G20Media.org for more info on preparations for the summit.

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