community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
On today's show... * Foreign workers strike at a Hershey's Chocolate factory * An Afghanistan war veteran speaks in Pittsburgh as part of a nation-wide tour * A report back on the demonstration held last week in response to homophobic violence in Bloomfield * And more in our local and global headlines
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Rustbelt Radio for August 29, 2011
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.
Jacob George is a founder of the Afghanistan Veterans Against the War and the resistance movement Ride Til the End. George rides his bike around the United States, mostly in the south, speaking about the situation in Afghanistan today at schools, youth groups and churches. He spoke in Pittsburgh at the soon-to-open new location of The Big Idea bookstore. George served three tours of duty with the U.S. Army Special Forces in Afghanistan, from 2001 to 2004. In July of 2011, he returned there as a peace seeker with a delegation from Voices for Creative Non Violence. He spoke to the Pittsburgh audience with a slide show presentation of photographs from that tour, describing women’s co-ops, orphanages, the mortality rate, security, the U.S. occupation and the Taliban.
The delegation was guided by a group of teens called the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, who showed the visitors instances of inspirational resilience as well as grim realities. George promised he’d share their stories with the people of the United States.
After the presentation, George opened the floor to a question and answer session. The audience was comprised mostly of veterans, young and old. When asked if George had worked with the U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan while there as a peace seeker, George explained how his experience was very different communicating with the soldiers as a civilian.
The Pittsburgh chapter of the Iraq Veterans Against the War sponsored the event. To learn more about Ride Till The End, visit www.operationawareness.org. and for more information on G.I. resistance visit ivaw.org.
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You are listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news overlooked by the corporate media. We turn now to other independent news from around the world.
You're listening to Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's bi-weekly review of news from the grassroots.
As a warning to listeners, the following story may produce triggers or flashbacks for people who have experienced violence, especially if it has been motivated by homophobia or transphobia.
On the night of Tuesday August 23rd, Lauren Jurysta and Cheryl Sedlock were walking along Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield holding hands. The couple were blocks away from Juysta’s street when two men, leaving The Pleasure Bar, began taunting them with homophobic slurs. After insults were given back and forth, one of the men pointed a gun on the women and threatened them, gun in face, for around a minute until both parties disbanded. No one was physically hurt in the confrontation.
The following evening, after an afternoon of mass text messaging and facebook calls to action, a crowd met at the corner of Cedarville and Liberty, across from the Pleasure Bar in Bloomfield, where the incident occurred. The crowd gathered to demonstrate against hate crimes of this homophobic nature recurring in this neighborhood. One year ago in almost the same location there was a gay bashing incident, which is a violent action taken towards someone based on their perceived gay sexual orientation.
Lauren, one of the people who was threatened with the gun, started the demonstration by telling her story of what happened the night before.
Demonstration participant Joan Barette, an individual attending the event, and then Calvin Skinner from One Pittsburgh, an organization that addresses economic disparity, on why they each were present:
Community member Thomas Waters stepped forward to share his support; during his speech the Pittsburgh Police arrived at the demonstration.
The police were not notified about the assault the night prior, but responded to an alleged 911 call in regards to the rally. When asked why a police report was not made the night before, Jurysta and Sedlock said they both had past experience involving police in harassment incidents. They agreed that [quote] it only makes things worse [end quote].
Another member of the community, Evan, who had an experience with gender driven harassment, got up next to share with the demonstrators and police.
As Evan finished and demonstrators made their way from the Liberty Avenue sidewalk to Friendship park, one supporter stepped forward in solidarity with Evan, sharing their experience of being misgendered by the Pittsburgh Police in a past arrest and the threats and harassment that ensue for a female-bodied individual thrown into the men's cell. Officer M. Hoffman stepped forward from the other 3 officers present to ask the two not to talk about their negative experiences with the cops while the cops were present. A group of people did not comply and stayed behind on the sidewalk with Officer Hoffman to discuss grievances, on behalf of the queer community, and minority communities generally, in regards to the misconduct and lack of support of the Pittsburgh Police. Officer Hoffman asked not to be associated with their grievances, claiming solidarity with the protesters, and urged them to follow the rally to the park. When asked for an interview, the officer declined saying it would have to go through their department first.
Meanwhile, demonstration participants Neil Bhearman, Barette and then Skinner respond to the question of whether or not this assault on queer people was an isolated incident:
The FBI tracks hate crimes nationally; in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, 18.5% of all hate crimes were based on “sexual orientation bias.” This is almost 1500 incidents. Furthermore, the FBI statistics also show that although hate crimes include a range of acts such as vandalism, property damage, intimidation, and assault, anti-LGBTQ crimes are more likely to involve violence against a person. These numbers are almost certainly underestimating the level of violence because not all crimes are reported. The FBI estimates its own statistics are 33% too low. Many jurisdictions, including Pennsylvania, do not track hate crimes based on sexual orientation.
The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network or GLSEN [pronounced glisten ], which has chapters all over the country including one in Pittsburgh, has done middle and high school surveys to try and estimate how much sexual orientation –based harassment and violence LGBTQ students face. In 2009 they found that (quote) nearly nine out of ten LGBT students said they were verbally, physically or sexually harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. One in three had skipped school because they were simply too afraid to go. One in five had been physically assaulted. (endquote)
The surveys also found that students in Pennsylvania faced worse harassment than the national average. The results showed that more than half had been harassed physically; more than a quarter said they had been physically assaulted; and most of those harassed or assaulted didn't report it, but only about a third of those who did report it found school staff intervened effectively.
Years before, a friend of Jurysta's was assaulted in Friendship Park for not representing her assigned gender, as far as her assaulters were concerned, and the threats turned into physical violence. Last year, another transgendered person was violently attacked by men who were also leaving the Pleasure Bar.
Across the street during the demonstration stood Rolando Bustamente (boost – tah – mont – ay) who manages the bar at the Pleasure Bar. Here is Bustamente on what happened on the Bar’s end and his feelings on what happened the night before:
After the crowd moved to Friendship Park, a larger portion of it moved up Friendship towards Penn in a march to draw the Bloomfield community's awareness to their demonstration. Although the police suggested a march would be preferable to a stand-still rally on the sidewalk, cop cars swarmed Friendship Avenue, parking alongside the march. Hostility between them and some marching protesters led to five arrests within minutes. Although the crowd was on the move the arrested were charged with obstructing highways and refusal to disperse, although film clips taken by standers-by show some arrests clearly motivated by vocal taunting and questioning of the police.
Here is Neil Bhearman about the police incident on Friendship as he saw it and his opinion on what transpired and encounters with the police in general:
After the arrests were made, Dalila spoke of her account of what happened after people began to march down Friendship Boulevard where there was more police involvement:
Dalila also shared her an incident she had with discriminatory and assaultive neighbors in Wilkinsburg and the subsequent interactions with the police:
Delila finishes with her wishes about what this protest and the police interactions will produce:
More wishes for the results of this demonstration from earlier interviewed Calvin Skinner, Joan Barette and Neil Bhearman:
The day following the demonstration, Jurysta filed a police report for the confrontation that took place Tuesday night and organizing has begun in support of the arrested protesters.
And now we present the Indymedia Calendar of Events:
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Thanks for tuning in to Rustbelt Radio here on WRCT Pittsburgh, WIUP Indiana, WNJR Washington, WLRI LanChester, and FRSC Santa Cruz.
Our hosts this week are Jessica McPherson and Emily Laychak with contributions from Lizzie Anderson, Hannah Talib, Jessica McPherson, and Emily Laychak. 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 bi-weekly review of news from the grassroots.