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Pittsburgh to cite G-20 demonstrators for intending illegal use of protest items

[JURIST] The Pittsburgh City Council [official website] on Wednesday passed an ordinance [text, PDF] in anticipation of the upcoming Group of 20 (G-20) [official website] summit [official website] that will allow police to cite people in possession of certain items if they intend to use them unlawfully. The temporary ordinance, passed in anticipation of protests at the summit scheduled for September 24 and 25, expires at the end of the month. It prohibits the possession of tools or other items such as handcuffs, padlocks, and pipes with an intent to use those items to block access to streets, sidewalks, and public buildings or to defeat crowd control orders. Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Mike Huss said that the ordinance will help to protect the public [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report]. Councilman William Peduto [official profile], the only member of council to vote against the ordinance, said that laws prohibiting protesters from blocking access to streets and sidewalks and requiring them to obey dispersal orders already exist and that the ordinance allows officers "to make a judgment call not on an act but on an assumption of an act," exposing the city to federal lawsuits.

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] claiming that the US Secret Service, the City of Pittsburgh, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources [official website] are acting illegally by failing to issue protest permits for the summit. The ACLU claims that the failure to issue protest permits for certain areas of the city is a violation of the First Amendment right to peaceful protest. In its complaint, the rights group argued for injunctive and declaratory relief claiming that only two protest permits have been issued so far for the G-20, and those two permits were far away from downtown Pittsburgh. A federal judge heard arguments [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report] in the suit Wednesday. A proposal to ban masks and hoods [text, PDF] during the summit was voted down [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report] by the City Council last week.

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