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Pittsburgh Wobblies Active in Many Defense Campaigns, Jena, Police Brutality, Free Speach Against the War

FREE THEM FIGHTERS (pictured, right)—The Pittsburgh Six, from left: Anthony “Platinum Tone” Edwards, Tristyn Trailes, Peppy, Paradise Gray, Ruth Marshall and Bret Grote.

Protest in Jena: The Pittsburgh perspective

By C. Denise Johnson | Published  09/27/2007 

The eyes of the nation were fixed on Jena last week as the epicenter of a countrywide protest descended on Jena, La., in protest of the charges leveled against six Black youths accused of attempted murder. While many tuned to radio, TV and Internet coverage of the proceedings, a small cadre of activists made the trek to be part of the demonstration.

Several members of Pittsburgh’s OneHOOD made the long trip to be part of history and join in he demonstration (Minister Jasiri X flew down separately).

“Thousands of cars and hundreds of buses from all over America jammed the roads to a standstill,” said Paradise Gray, one of six Pittsburghers who traveled 21 hours in a minivan to Jena.

A veteran of several protests who helped organize June’s Black Male Solidarity Day march and rally at Freedom Corner, Gray, 43, compared the events in Jena to the Millions More March that commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March, but with a younger demographic.

“There were more young people, lots of college students and even younger,” said Gray. “The response to the incident to me represents and signals the changing of the guard.”

Thirty-year-old Anthony “Platinum Tone” Edwards said his decision to make the journey was basically spontaneous—it was his first involvement in a civil protest.

“I was astounded and in awe by all the people that turned out (in Jena),” said Turner. He related some interesting sidebars to the protest.  “On the day of the rally, they cut off all cell phone transmission,” he said. “It was land-line or nothing. Being from out-of-town, it was kind of scary.”

Edwards spotted Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, as well as syndicated talk show host Michael Baisden and activist Dick Gregory while in Louisiana.

There was a kind of disconnect in the coordination of the days proceedings, he said. “Seven different groups had applied for permits. It was crazy because one group didn’t know what the other was doing.”

There were also auxiliary events going on in neighboring communities. “After the protest there was another event being held in (nearby) Alexandria that took on a party atmosphere, which I couldn’t understand. After all, at the end of the day, Mychal Bell is still in jail.”

Edwards added that during the protest, more than $10,000 was raised in a free will collection, “which was more than enough to post (Bell’s) bail.”

Still, Edwards was glad he made the trip and looks forward to continue being an activist.

Edwards and Gray are now collaborating on a documentary of their experience with a working title of “Free Them Fighters.” Excerpts of the work in process can be found at

ORDERLY CONDUCT (pictured, right)—Pamela Lawton, right, with daughter Jasmine discuss her case with Tim Stevens, left, of B-PEP and Kenneth Miller of the Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance.

Lawton not guilty of disorderly conduct

By Deborah M. Todd | Published  09/27/2007

After more than a year’s worth of postponements and a day-and-a-half long trial, Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariarti found Pamela Lawton not guilty of disorderly conduct on Sept. 21, in spite of his obvious misgivings about her version of events surrounding the charges.

Lawton, who claimed Pittsburgh Police officer Eric Tatusko pulled his weapon on her then 7-year-old daughter Joshalyn during a traffic stop August of last year, was cleared of summary disorderly conduct charges, but found guilty of vehicle code violations associated with the stop.

While Mariarti flatly dismissed accusations that Tatusko threatened to shoot and called Lawton’s testimony “wholly incredible,” he also said that her actions did not meet the standard of disorderly conduct.

Lawton called the verdict “fair,” and said she could understand why Mariarti found her version of the story hard to believe.

“I could hardly believe it was happening to me when it happened, so I understand how somebody might not believe me,” said Lawton.

Although accounts told by Lawton and Tatusko directly contradicted each other at times, the bulk of the arguments made by assistant district attorney Luca Giorgi and defense attorney Paul Boas surrounded the undisputed facts that Tatusko pulled his weapon and Lawton screamed in response.

Giorgi argued that while Tatusko pulled the weapon, he held it in a “cover” position pointed toward the ground, and that no one in the car faced immediate danger. He also argued that Lawton’s screaming became disorderly because it caused “public inconvenience in noise or alarm” and it “rose to a level wither the consequences were possibly tumultuous” because a small crowd was around.

Boas countered those arguments with a testimony from Ricardo Hill, who said that he saw Tatusko’s weapon pointed at the vehicle and that Tatusko threatened to shoot. Boas also argued that Lawton’s yelling was protected first amendment speech.

Mariarti ruled that the Commonwealth did not prove that Lawton’s speech rose to the level of disorderly conduct beyond a reasonable doubt because it did not incite the crowd around her. While he said Tatusko’s action of drawing his weapon was “reasonable under the circumstances” he also said it was “understandable” Lawton would be unnerved, so her reaction was not unwarranted.

Lawton must pay a $25 fine for each count of driving without valid inspection and emissions stickers and a $300 fine for driving without insurance.

Army recruiters talk with some of the war protesters outside the recruiting station in Oakland yesterday.

War protesters in Oakland reach agreement with city and police

Thursday, September 20, 2007

By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Anti-war protesters who have been staking out a section of an Oakland sidewalk around the clock since Sept. 4 said that sometimes they got cited, sometimes they got a free pass from police.

Members of the Pittsburgh Organizing Group argued that the threat of arrest is enough to chill a person's right to free speech, and yesterday reached an accord with the city and police after going to court over the issue.

On Tuesday, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit on behalf of group members who have been protesting outside an Army recruiting station.

Then yesterday, before the hearing on their request for a temporary restraining order, the two sides huddled for an hour outside a federal courtroom and reached what they called "an agreement in principle."

Under the arrangement, the city agreed to give the group two different areas along Forbes Avenue in which to protest. Members will be allowed to continue their action there until Sept. 30.

"We see today as an absolute victory on all counts," said Patrick Young, one of the protesters who has been cited. "Our right to protest has been affirmed. We'll be free from harassment, free from police intimidation and free from arrest."

The major concern of the police department, said city attorney Michael Kennedy, was pedestrian traffic.

"We have to weigh a lot of competing interests," he said, noting that police officers have to satisfy businesses, pedestrians and the protesters. But the agreement, he said, should do that.

"It creates a large enough pedestrian flow area," he said. "It eliminates tripping hazards."

Police Cmdr. Kathy Degler of the Squirrel Hill station said one of the major concerns was that there is a bus lane right next to the sidewalk where the protesters have gathered.

"The buses come flying out that lane," she said. "We don't want pedestrians to feel the need to avoid the protesters by going out in the street."

But group members argue they have always left enough room on the sidewalk for people to pass.  "The response from the police was wholly inconsistent," Mr. Young said.

Sometimes police officers would simply leave the protesters alone. Other times, officers would ask for identification, or tell them that they weren't allowed to sit or lie down, and that they had to keep moving.

For Michael Butler, a protester who is also on a hunger strike to bring awareness to the effort, that's not realistic.

Mr. Butler, 21, of Bloomfield, is surviving on water and salt tablets. He said he has already lost at least 25 pounds.

"We want to find a way to focus attention on dissent on the war in Iraq and military recruitment in Pittsburgh," Mr. Butler said.

Though they are camped out in front of an Army recruiting station, he said they don't really interact with any of the recruits. As far as talking to the military personnel there, he said, they mostly ignore one another.

One police officer, Mr. Butler said, called him a "communist."

"I think, in a lot of ways, anti-war is pro-troop," he said. "These people are our family, friends and community members being sent halfway around the world to fight and die for what -- greater financial and political power for a few people?"

As part of the deal, the protesters will be allowed to sleep in the area of the sidewalk in front of FedEx Kinko's at 3710 Forbes, and they'll be allowed to have chairs and signs set up in front of Qdoba, a Mexican restaurant, at 3712 Forbes.

Under the agreement, the number of protesters permitted will not be limited, and they will use a chalk line to mark the areas where they can be.

First published on September 20, 2007 at 12:00 am

Paula Reed Ward can be reached at [email protected] or 412-263-2620.

Laney Trautman

Will begin fasting on September 17, 2007

Laney is 19 and works with Jane Street Housekeeping, a worker owned cooperative here in Pittsburgh. Along with organizing with POG she is also a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. She likes making/reading zines, silkscreening, cats, writing, and playing music. She is also involved with the newly developed <!-- Rusty Strings Colective -->Rusty Strings music collective.

"As I see it, everything has a sort of energy, this city for example, for the most part, has a positive energy, however, some places, such as the recruitment center, aren't so positive. So during my time of fasting i will be camping out in front of one of those sources of negativity in a state of constant contemplation so as to figure out the next steps towards eliminating these sorts of establishments from our cities. It infuriates me that recruiters prey on poor and working class youth, to get them to fight in unjust wars based on profit with the idea that by enlisting they will be ensured a college education that they otherwise might not be able to attain. The sad truth is that these young people, if they live to come back, are forever changed, with broken spirits and jaded perceptions of the world they live in. Many suffer from PTSD and other debilitating mental disorders after having seen the horrors of war. It terrifies me when I think of how there are people fighting in that war right now, people my own age, people who should be pursuing their interests and their passions. Rather, they are wielding guns instead of pens, bitterness instead of inspiration."