community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show: We'll hear about local efforts to hold police accountable for abuses against citizens, including incidents during the G20 summit, the beating of Jordan Miles, and the case of Terrell Johnson, Green Party candidate for Senate Mel Packer is knocked off the ballot by Democratic candidate Joe Sestak, Google and Verizon form a pact that threatens net neutrality, Pittsburgh high school students report on the gulf oil spill, and more in our local and global headlines.
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Rustbelt Radio for August 16, 2010
Welcome to this week's edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-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 July 2010, twenty students about to enter their first year of college served as summer interns with The Heinz Endowments Youth Philanthropy Program. During one week of the summer internship, the students learned about producing radio documentaries. Training and equipment was provided by the Saturday Light Brigade, a children's radio show which also provides educational outreach to local school children. The result of this partnership between the Youth Interns and SLB Radio is a series of nine stories--all with an environmental focus--called The Green Compass.
Over the next few weeks, we will share these pieces with you. Today's piece focuses on the Gulf Oil spill. Travis Maloy and Doretha Murray speak with Eric Liffman of the International Bird Rescue Research Center as well as Captain Damon McKnight, a charter fisherman. They speak about the effects of the spill on the water system and wildlife.
Stay tuned to future Rustbelt Radio episodes for more from the Green Compass.
We now speak with Mel Packer, Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate representing Pennsylvania. After a six month effort to get on the ballot for the November election, a legal challenge from Democratic senate candidate Joe Sestak has effectively ended Packer's candidacy. Packer describes the challenges third parties face to get on the ballot in Pennsylvania.
Although the state had accepted the signatures as valid and sufficient to put Mel Packer on the ballot, at the last moment, Joe Sestak, the Democratic candidate for the senate seat, filed a legal challenge asserting that many of the signatures were invalid.
You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media.
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You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news from the grassroots.
Amidst a long list of allegations against the city over police misconduct, Pittsburgh's Citizen Police Review Board struggles to fit the pieces together, while facing increasing hostility from the city management.
Unresolved cases stemming from the G20 are still lingering from last year and pressure for action is mounting, after a recent disclosure that the cops who beat CAPA student, Jordan Miles, are receiving considerable salaries while suspended.
The Citizen Police Review Board or the CPRB, is an independent agency that investigates citizen complaints about police misconduct. The CPRB was created after the 1995 police killing of African-American motorist, Johnny Gammage, during a traffic stop. The cop that killed Mr. Gammage was subsequently found not guilty and was allowed to return to work.
During this time, widespread community support led to a successful 1997 ballot referendum. This referendum established the CPRB, with a board composed of seven community residents. CPRB Executive Director, Beth Pittinger, explained the board's pursuit of police misconduct after the week of G20 protests in Pittsburgh during September of 2009.
Days before a scheduled June 18th court hearing on the G20 documents, the Pittsburgh City Council passed an unprecedented resolution requesting the CPRB to slow down its investigation for fear of unearthing material that could benefit those who filed lawsuits against the city because of police abuses during the G20.
According to a June 18th Pittsburgh Post Gazette editorial, the “council approved the nonbinding resolution because of fear of the city’s legal liabilities.”
Beth Pittinger continued:
While the CPRB was in court petitioning the city to comply with Judge R. Stanton Wettick's order to hand over G20 documents, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl suddenly announced the replacement of over half the CPRB board members.
The CPRB is just one of many city bodies with expired members serving on boards, but it was the only one that saw direct and unilateral intervention by the mayor. These attacks by the City Council and city management are increasingly angering members of the community who want to see justice in the midst of what they see as a rising tide of police impunity.
While the city has already been under pressure from police misconduct due to G20 abuses, new pressure is mounting for the city to prosecute the three police officers who beat up African-American CAPA violinist and honors student, Jordan Miles.
On the night of January 12, just one day after his 18th birthday, Miles was violently attacked and beaten by undercover officers in Homewood. They claimed that Miles had a gun. The officers later wrote in an affidavit that they mistook a Mountain Dew bottle in Miles' jacket for a gun. Miles says that he wasn’t carrying any soda, that his jacket pocket doesn't even fit a bottle of soda properly, and that he rarely even drinks Mountain Dew. No soda bottle was ever entered into evidence by the police.
Miles reported that, while walking a couple of blocks from his mother's to his grandmother's house around 11pm at night, three white men had run towards him yelling "Where's the guns? Where's the drugs? Where's the money?" Thinking he was being robbed he ran but slipped on the icy sidewalk, and was immediately overtaken and brutally beaten. Images taken in the hospital show Miles face massively swollen up, areas of his head where his dreadlocks were ripped out, and cuts covering his face.
Despite his injuries which indicated the severity of force used against him, Miles was charged with assault. These charges were later dropped when the neighbor who supposedly called the police—whose testimony was used in the official police report—denied she had done any such thing. Her son and Miles were friends and used to hang out together, she said. She had not called the police. Miles had never been in trouble with the police before.
Seven month later, the three officers that attacked Jordan Miles are still on paid administrative leave and receive overtime pay for appearances in court. Pittsburgh residents are angry that they have not been prosecuted. Meanwhile, Miles is about to enter the University of Pittsburgh to study crime scene investigations. The teen violin player who played a concert at CAPA high school for Michelle Obama and other first ladies during the G20, is trying to decide whether he can pursue his interest in music, due to injuries from the police beating.
CPRB Executive Director, Beth Pittinger explained what is happening with the CPRB investigation into the Jordan Miles case:
A local group called the Alliance For Police Accountability (or APA) has formed in the wake of the Jordan Miles beating On Thursday August 12, they held a press conference and delivered a thousand signature petition to Allegheny County District Attorney, Stephen A. Zappala Jr., requesting him to prosecute the three officers.
At the event, Brandi Fisher, an organizer with the APA, commented:
Another APA organizer and member of the Black Political Empowerment Project, Tim Stevens asked questions of the City management:
Approximately 20 Alliance for Police Accountability members gathered outside the District Attorney's office, where the DA's Communications Director Mike Manko spoke to the assembled activists:
Brandi Fisher asked the DA's spokesman to clarify why the investigation was not ongoing regardless of the federal probe:
Local professor and APA member Harvey Holtz made a strong case for continuing to investigate irrespective of the FBI/Justice Department, while the DA's spokesman became increasingly agitated:
The DA's position was not unexpected. Other departments in the city have suspended investigations citing the FBI review. Shortly after the brutal beating of Jordan Miles, Mayor Ravenstahl had promised that the Office of Municipal Investigations (OMI) investigation would be concluded swiftly, by the end of February.
In an April 20th letter from City Solicitor Dan Regan to Councilman Patrick Dowd, Regan claimed that the city investigation by the OMI was still "open", meaning that it was under no obligation to deliver any result. Regan wrote:
"It is important that the City act in a manner that respects the integrity of the federal investigation. In light of these developments and the recommendation of the Law Department, the Mayor believed that the only judicious course of action was to allow OMI to keep the investigation open."
As the DA's spokesman continued to make his case, claiming non-specifically that "past experience has shown that it is not conducive to our office to conduct a parallel simultaneous investigation", community members gradually became more exasperated, with local activist and hiphop producer Paradise Gray speaking out.
The spokesman had finally retreated back into his office, the doors were shut on the community members outside, and guarded by two police officers.
At the July 6th City Council meeting, over 20 members of the community passionately testified against the Council's, the Mayor's and other attacks against the Citizen Police Review Board. Mother Yvonne F Brown, who lost her son to police violence, made an impassioned plea to all those present to save the board:
It is clear that there is no end to community anger about the excessive G20 overpolicing and abuses, about the Jordan Miles beating, and about the city's prolonged investigation into the matter.
Rustbelt Radio will continue to bring you independent reporting on this issue. For more information about the campaign for police accountability in Pittsburgh, visit JusticeForJordanMiles.com
The second Hazelwood Freedom Festival took place last Saturday, August 14th, at the Lewis Playground in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hazelwood. After enjoying the music, fire-jugglers, face-painting and food, a crowd of neighborhood locals and other Pittsburgh residents listened to organizers and audience members speak of wrongful convictions, abuse and torture in Pennsylvania prisons.
Along with Fed Up, Pittsburgh's chapter of the Human Rights Coalition, a major organizer of this event was Saundra Cole. Cole's husband, Terrell Johnson, has been incarcerated for 16 years in a Pennsylvania institution for a crime that he and his supporters have consistently maintained that he did not commit, where there is no physical evidence against him and two witnesses to his alibi. More recently, the Innocence Institute of Point Park University, who got involved in this case back in 2003 and questioned whether the trial was conducted fairly, did an interview with a woman who says the witness who testified against Johnson admitted to her that he did not commit this crime. Due to the consistent challenging of this conviction, Johnson is set to have a new trial on October 25th, 2010.
After Cole gave an introduction and some background on Johnson's case, audience members shared their stories. Margaret Thompson got up to speak about her and her son's experiences with PA prisons:
PA inmate Carrington Key's mother, Shandre (pronounce: shawn-drey) Delaney, shared some of her family's story:
Also in attendance was a CAPA high school student to speak about the Jordon Miles case:
To finish up the event, Lutual Love spoke about Poor Law, an organization he and Cole are involved in:
On Tuesday, August 17th, at 9 am there will be a press conference and rally for Terrell Johnson's freedom before the City Council meeting in the Allegheny Courthouse at 436 Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh
To contact Saundra Cole about her husband's case or about Poor Law, write to: poorlaw@gmail DOT com To contact Fed Up, Pittsburgh's chapter of the Human Rights Coalition, write to: HRCFEDUP@gmail DOT com
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
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Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh and FRSC Santa Cruz.
Our hosts this week are Carlin Christy and Nichole Faina with contributions from Lizzie Anderson, Seth Bearden, Carlin Christy, Jessica McPherson, and Nigel Parry. This week's show was produced by Shawn Watson. Special thanks to all of our hosts, producers, and contributors.
You can get involved with Rustbelt Radio! To contact us, email RADIO at I-N-D-Y-P-G-H dot ORG. Become our fan on Facebook to receive updates on our latest episode. All of our shows are available on our website at RADIO dot INDY-P-G-H dot ORG and this show can be heard again Tuesday morning on WRCT at 9 AM after Democracy Now!
Tune in next week at this time for another edition of Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news from the grassroots.