community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show... * Fed Up brings us a report on Palestinian Prisoners * PRIDE comes to the city * Pittsburghers gather to call for peace in Iran * Actions throughout Appalachia protest mountaintop removal coal mining * Plus more in our local and global headlines
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Rustbelt Radio for June 29, 2009
Welcome to this week's edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of the news from the grassroots, news overlooked by the corporate media.
On today's show...
Rustbelt Radio is broadcast live from WRCT studios every other Monday at 6 PM on 88.3 FM in Pittsburgh, and the program airs again on WRCT every Tuesday morning at 9AM.
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We turn now to local stories.
In December of 2008, Hill District resident Donna Williams came to Pittsburgh's Zone 2 police station seeking protection from an abusive boyfriend, Robert Taylor. Police turned her away, telling her that she needed to get a protection from abuse order or--PFA--from a Judge. Ms. Williams did just that, and finally, two months after the incident, police arrested Taylor. He then spent one month in the Allegheny County Jail. Despite an extensive criminal record, he received 18 months of probation, and was release from jail in April of 2009. Two weeks later, on April 18, Taylor attacked Williams for a second time. A warrant for his arrest was promptly issued, however clerical errors, lack of oversight, and police miscommunication allowed Mr. Taylor to remain on the streets for another month. During this time, Williams lived in fear of her attacker and continually sought police support for protecting her life.
The police mishandling of Ms. Williams' case has garnered attention from a number of women's organizations and civil society groups. In response, they have formed a coalition to advocate for a change in Police policies towards victims of domestic abuse and to seek justice for Donna Williams. The coalition came together before the Citizen Police Review Board on Tuesday June 23rd to call for an investigation of Ms Williams' case.
Kathy Wilson, member of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Organization of Women, gives a brief overview of the case.
The National Council for Jewish Women were among the groups present at the press conference. Speaking on their behalf, Christine Stone voices her support of the investigation:
Information recently provided to the Citizen Police Review Board suggests that Ms Williams' case is not an isolated incident. As a result, the CPRB will investigate existing domestic abuse polices of the Pittsburgh Police. Beth Pittinger, Executive Director of the Review Board speaks:
In 2007, the same coalition came together in an effort to prevent the promotion of 3 police officers with documented histories of domestic abuse. One of the officers that was eventually promoted, George Trosky, is now Commander at the Zone 2 station where Donna Williams originally asked for protection. Jean Clark of the Feminist Majority comments:
Recommendations have been made to the CPRB to organize a public hearing that will address the case of Donna Williams as well as the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police's alleged misconduct and inadequacies latent in current domestic abuse policy. Stay tuned to future episodes of Rustbelt Radio for updates on this investigation.
That was the sound of Pittsburgh Pride, or more precisely, the drum corps marching behind the banner of the Renaissance City Choirs at the downtown Pride Parade. June 8th through 14th was Pride Week in Pittsburgh, the designated annual celebration of the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people, one of many taking place around the country early this summer. An estimated 6,000 people came to support the Pride Parade, according to the Delta Foundation, the organization who has produced the event for the past few years.
The theme of 2009 Pride Week was "Your Rights, Our Rights, Human Rights", echoing recent and crucial gay rights issues. These include the success of marriage equality in a handful of states and the possibility of a more inclusive federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), that would prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. A number of local initiatives, including an anti-discrimination ordinance for Allegheny County and the introduction of marriage equality legislation in the Pennsylvania Senate, are also at stake.
Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at the Women's Law Project, spoke at Carnegie Mellon University on June 8th as part of an ACLU-sponsored forum on law, marriage, money and family matters affecting the LGBTQ community. She has been working to get HB300, the statewide anti-discrimination bill for housing and employment, passed in the Pennsylvania House.
Other Pride Week activities married politics and play, as LGBTQ community members and allies attended events like the Black Pride Film Festival at the August Wilson Center and the Pride Bowling Extravaganza at the Forward Lanes in Squirrel Hill, sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Community Center and the Pride Bowling League.
Sam Thorpe, an artist from Tarentum, produces and hands out her own flier about gay rights to people she meets. She explains why she joined about 80 other women for the DYKE March on Saturday June 13th in Oakland.
The 2009 Pride season also marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the June 28th backlash against police raids in a Greenwich Village gay bar, credited with sparking the gay rights movement in the United States. Reverend David McFarland, the first openly gay minister to be chosen by a congregation in Pittsburgh, chose Stonewall as the basis of his sermon at the Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church in the North Side on Sunday June 14th.
Many in McFarland's congregation marched later with 70 other organizations in the downtown Pride Parade. PrideFest followed the parade, as several city blocks on Liberty Avenue, Downtown, were closed to accommodate speakers, live music, food and more than 100 information booths on everything from the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy to health care.
Janet Fizzini was staffing the table for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and providing hugs as a stand in for anyone who may be missing one from a parent or loved one:
Rustbelt Radio asked some Pittsburgh Pride participants in the crowd, "what are you proud of?"
Renee Ballard of Pittsburgh attended PrideFest with her girlfriend:
Beth Renshaw of Shadyside:
Scott from Pittsburgh, AKA Miss Courtney Brown, had his in- laws in from Weirton, West Virginia to celebrate Pride. When we asked him what he was proud of, he said:
You can find out more about local, statewide and national gay rights issues which may affect you or someone you know at www.center4civilrights.org
On June 12th, after a contentious presidential election in Iran, the Guardian Council of Iran, a twelve member body consisting of six clerics and six lawyers, declared the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory over the Reformist candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, by a 63% to 33% margin. Soon after, Mousavi supporters took to the street in protest alleging voter fraud. The Iranian Government, after allowing a few days of peaceful protests, turned to heavy censorship, mass arrests, and violence to try an subdue the protests. With more on the local Pittsburgh reaction, is Rustbelt Reporter Khalid Harun.
For more on local news, you can visit pittsburgh dot I-N-D-Y-M-E-D-I-A dot org.
[ HMB BREAK RUSTBELT - 0:20 (fades down 0:10 in to start global intro) ]
You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media. We turn now to news from other independent media sources around the world.
The United Electrical Workers local 1147 has launched a national protest against Wells Fargo, whose refusal to continue financing a factory in Moline, Illinois is forcing the factory to close. The factory, Quality Die Casting, is a 60 year old family owned business that employs 100 people. The business has not lost customers, but in recent months it has not made a profit because orders are smaller due to the economic downturn. The UE says that the business could weather the tough economic times and survive if Wells Fargo continues to finance it. Wells Fargo received more than 25 billion dollars in federal bailout funds. The United Electrical workers say this money, which came from taxpayers, should go to preserve jobs by helping small businesses such as Quality Die Casting stay afloat. The factory is set to close on July 12th if Wells Fargo does not reverse its decision. On June 23rd protests against Wells Fargo were held in 20 cities across the country, including Pittsburgh. Several local union chapters took their protest to the Wells Fargo headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.
Nearly 2 years after the biggest civil rights march since the 1960s, the remaining 5 members of the Jena (SAY JEENA) 6 pleaded “no contest” to misdemeanor simple battery charges. The group of six black teenagers from Louisiana received international attention because of the racial disparities surrounding the case. In 2006, the LaSalle Parish's District attorney Reed Walters vowed to (quote) "seek the maximum penalty allowed by law" (end quote) for a school fight that resulted in a white schoolmate being treated for injuries at a hospital and released that same day.
The school fight is linked to a number of earlier incidents of racial harassment, intimidation and assault at Jena High School. When white students hung three nooses from a shade tree in the high school courtyard, the Superintendent called the incident a (quote) "silly prank". A school board committee and Superintendent overrode the principal's suggestion of expelling the students responsible for the nooses. Instead, the white students received three days of in-school suspension, outraging many members of the community. The black students protested the lack of responsiveness by school administrators with an impromptu gathering under the shade tree. Following this, the school hosted an assembly in which district attorney Reed Walters addressed the students who organized the peaceful gathering, singling out the black students. According to Cardemeshia Purvis, a former student at Jena High School, Walters “pulled out his pen and he said he could make our lives hell with just one stroke of a pen.”
This threat became evident following a December 4th 2006 fight in which the members of the Jena 6 were accused of beating up Justin Barker after he taunted students with racial slurs. The students, ranging from 14 to 18 years, were initially told they would face aggravated battery charges. However, the group soon learned they faced attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
The June 26 plea agreement states that 5 members of the Jena 6 will serve seven days of probation, pay minor fines and court fees, but serve no time in jail. The remaining member of the group, Mychal Bell, was charged as an adult with attempted murder by an all-white jury in 2007 but took a plea bargain in a juvenile court for a simple battery charge later that year.
The events of the Jena 6 case fueled protests, vigils, and demonstrations throughout the nation. James Rucker, the Executive Director of Color of Change, sums up the events of the Jena 6 sentencings by stating, (quote) "The story of the Jena 6 was an extreme example of what can happen when a justice system biased against black boys operates unchecked. But it's also an example of what can happen when hundreds of thousands of people across the country stand up to challenge unequal justice. Together, we drew the country's attention to this case and raised the money necessary to fund a strong legal defense." (end quote)
Activists across Appalachia have stepped up their campaign against mountaintop removal. On June 18th, fourteen were arrested in Boone county West Virginia at a civil disobedience action at a Massey energy mine site. 4 activists scaled the boom of a dragline, a massive crane as large as a city block that scoops out mountain rubble after it has been dynamited, to hang a banner with the words “stop mountaintop removal clean energy now.” Most of those arrested were charged with conspiracy and trespassing.
On June 23rd, a large crowd of supporters of the Mountain Justice coalition gathered in Sundial, West Virginia to protest the ongoing mining operations adjacent to the Marsh Fork Elementary School. A massive sludge pool held back by an earthen dam stands just hundreds of feet above the school, holding back almost 3 billion gallons of toxic waste. A coal processing silo also stands within 200 feet of the school, which releases high levels of coal dust into the air. Students and teachers at the school have developed respiratory problems and more serious illnesses. Despite these problems, the West Virginia EPA has approved a permit for a second silo to be built at the site. The activists called for an end to mountaintop removal throughout Appalachia and a move towards a sustainable economy. We’ll hear some voices from the protest:
A crowd of supporters of Massey Energy, which owns the mine site, also turned out to heckle the protesters, shouting “go back home” and blowing airhorns when speakers addressed the crowd. Several speakers addressed the massey supporters, who included workers at the mine:
The actress Daryl Hannah, former West Virginia congressman Ken Hechler, and NASA climate scientist James Hansen also made the trip to West Virginia to support the protest. These three, along with 26 others, were arrested when they crossed the Massey Energy property line in a civil disobediance action.
Coal River Mountain Watch, the local group that organized the protest, is working to develop a wind farm in their valley as an alternative source of energy and jobs in the region.
On June 26 through 28th, Mountain Justice activists also held three days of action at the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional offices in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Washington DC, to protest the EPA’s continuing approval of mountaintop removal permits, which violate the clean water act by dumping tons of rubble into adjacent streams.
You can learn more about the ongoing struggle to end mountaintop removal and transition to a green economy in Appalachia at www.mountainjustice.org.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.
Fed up, the Pittsburgh chapter of the Human Rights Coalition, brings you this week's feature length report on the Prison Industrial Complex
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
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Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WPTS Pittsburgh, WNJR Washington, and WIUP Indiana.
Our hosts this week are Ben Klahr and Carlin Christy with contributions from Lizzie Anderson, Jessica McPherson, Khalid Harun, Kara Holsopple, Juliana Stricklen, Seth Bearden, Jason Oddo, and Carlin Christy. This week's show was produced by Phill Cresswell. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
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Tune in next week at this time for another edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of news from the grassroots.