The permitted holiday march began with a rally at 5th and Bigelow, near the Pitt Student Union.
Many signs and placards decried racism and in glowing letters, for it was winter and evening fell early. Young and old came out. Drums sounded, booming low. Some horns, in a soft dirge. A few bicycle chimes.
The City Paper reported 1,200 participated in the three-mile march and demonstrations spanning from Oakland to Grant St., Downtown. A student observer estimated about 300 participants in the early going in Oakland, which was my own estimate. And of those, about 85% White. Both stats may have changed over the evening.
Not all motorists were happy being rerouted up Bigelow Blvd. CMU officers manned the barricades against them without apparent incident, near which Pittsburgh Police Chief Cam McLay situated himself on neutral ground.
Brandi Fisher of the Alliance for Police Accountability was the first speaker, a popular choice with new significance, as local newspapers recently scrutinized a financing error with a highly suspicious comb. Fisher was rousing as ever, though her microphone was weak and I was far away. She made very clear that how as we fight local and national issues, this is a global movement.
Tayfun Gol of the Party for Socialism and Liberation spoke next. Missed most of his speech as well, until the audio was fixed or upgraded. Born in Turkey, he was passionate that demonstrators should use the day to remember Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the Black Panthers and others, and to resist this white supremacist, capitalist U.S. imperialism.
Julia Johnson of We Change Pittsburgh, the prime event organizers and a new group taking action against “police brutality and systemic racism in response to the lack of justice for victims of police brutality in Ferguson, New York, and other cities [that] teamed up with the Merton Center Antiwar Committee and several other peace and justice groups” exhorted the crowd to come to weekly meetings and get involved in a working group. She exhorted us to start attending to City Council meetings each week, and engage.
Carl Redwood of the Hill District Consensus Group spoke next. We’ll return to that in a minute.
Johnson then again took to the mic and led the assembled in some readings, songs, and recitations of commitments, including a commitment to love one another. This is where a White guy can’t help himself but to sound off about whatever it is that he is not familiar with, because this White guy thinks that portion is so key.
King quotes and King video were shared a lot over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend, of course. He is known as an inspirational speaker who rooted his faith deep in a common humanity, in God, and in the words of the U.S.’s founding documents.
Activists these days seem often so weary and lacking in hope, they can do little but inform, clarify, insist and threaten. On this memorial holiday, I recalled the Rev. Dr.’s reassurances about the arc of history, warning of long fights ahead, but somehow also warmly confidence-inspiring and affectionately suggestive… and so deliberate, gracious… you know what? Never mind, forget it. He was Martin Luther King, Jr., and for the rest of us, it’s exhausting to try to talk people sweetly into getting inspired, especially when there is a group of already long-inspired people around you.
Now, back to Carl Redwood. He was trying to put people’s minds in a hopeful and warm place — but only for a couple of moments. Towards the beginning and end of his address. Otherwise his update on Hill District development was stark and alarming. To reclaim a phrase, the Hill really is the “inner city” — it’s right in the center, and between two rivers, and inside Downtown and the Univesities.
He told this crowd what he has been saying to others: that the City of Pittsburgh has a “policy” of moving poor Black people out of the city.
The Comet understands how Redwood is wrong about this. White Pittsburgh doesn’t want to move Black people out of the city. White Pittsburgh has a policy that if Black people decide to move out of their neighborhoods, that’s okay — because they will probably find a new place either in the City, or the suburbs. And how much does it matter how unhappy they are about it, asks White Pittsburgh?
Meanwhile, as all this was happening, in at least a dozen offices, a “deal” regarding the Hill District was furiously being brokered prior to a legal hearing…
RELATED: Gentrification is not so rampant a plague as all that, insist authors at Atlantic Cities. And at Rustwire, authors suggest that regional conditions — high past disinvestment, for example — can alter the usual gentrification model to a more optimistic one.
The President of the United States defended his Center-Left record well above the low bar of expectations the GOP continually sets for him. Obama also delivered stirring pleas for bipartisanship, neighborliness, taking the military’s warnings of environmental disruptions seriously, and that “everybody matters.”
Newly minted Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf promised “jobs that pay, schools that teach, and government that works.”. Environmental protestors heckled him.
Jim Rohr, as new chair of Carnegie Mellon, reveals himself to be the second-biggest whale in Pittsburgh (behind Jeffery Romoff).
Why is the Allegheny County Democratic Committee still endorsing candidates in primary elections, and levying ever more onerous fees on candidates seeking to represent the party of the working class?
Subject: Revisiting Your Inner Psychopath. A must-read from Bauer Ethics Seminars.