Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pittsburgh workers walk off jobs and rally Downtown to protest for higher wages

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 12:12 PM

Slideshow
Fight for $15 Pittsburgh
Fight for $15 Pittsburgh Fight for $15 Pittsburgh Fight for $15 Pittsburgh Fight for $15 Pittsburgh Fight for $15 Pittsburgh Fight for $15 Pittsburgh Fight for $15 Pittsburgh Fight for $15 Pittsburgh

Fight for $15 Pittsburgh

CP photos by Luke Thor Travis

Click to View 22 slides



On Nov. 29, hundreds of protesters took to the Downtown streets demanding that local fast-food restaurants, Giant Eagle grocery stores, and UPMC hospitals increase their minimum wages to $15 an hour and allow workers to form unions. The march was part of a national Day of Disruption, where cities across the country are protesting workers rights. 

More than 200 marchers shut down Liberty Avenue outside of the federal building and marched throughout Downtown to the McDonald's restaurant on Stanwix Street where CP News Editor Rebecca Addison reports some protesters were arrested.

Right before the march started, traffic was disrupted and more than 20 buses lined up on Liberty Avenue waiting for the march to start. More than a dozen police officers were present during the march. They provided escort for the marchers on motorcycles and bicycles. None were in riot gear.

Glenn Grayson of labor coalition One Pittsburgh spoke to the crowd before the
Protesters fill Liberty Avenue, Dowtown - CP PHOTO RYAN DETO
  • CP photo Ryan Deto
  • Protesters fill Liberty Avenue, Dowtown
 march about the frustration with stagnant wages for workers in the service industry. “Enough is enough with business as usual,” said Grayson. He also expressed anxiety that the group’s fight will be even harder when President-elect Donald Trump assumes office in January. “Our future president has declared that the current minimum wage is too high.”

One of the workers to walk off the job today to protest was Erika Lee, a shuttle bus driver for UPMC who currently makes $13 an hour. She lives in Mckeesport with her three children. Lee said she had to take a stand to fight for her and her co-workers’ rights, specifically allowing them to form a union, which UPMC has blocked for years.

“There has been no progress on forming a union,” said Lee. “There is constant intimidation. Many of us stood up today, but not all of us. Some of us, they feared retaliation.”

Linda Zinkhan works at the Market District Giant Eagle in Robinson Township. Her catering department recently joined United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23 and was drawn to protest because of the hardships she and six other employers went through in joining UFCW. Zinkhan said that management stalled contract talks and made workers attend anti-union meetings.

“It has been a clawing fight,” said Zinkhan.

Protesters outside the Stanwix Street McDonald's - PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
  • Photo by Luke Thor Travis
  • Protesters outside the Stanwix Street McDonald's

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Free Parking in Pittsburgh's Strip District for Small Business Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 1:16 PM

IMAGE COURTESY OF STRIP DISTRICT NEIGHBORS
  • Image courtesy of Strip District Neighbors
The irony of Small Business Saturday is not lost on us at Pittsburgh City Paper. The event was created by the American Express credit-card company and is sponsored by the company to this day. The shopping day is meant to promote small businesses that make communities unique and support them so that money spent goes directly back to locals. But, since American Express charges businesses more to use its credit cards than Visa or Mastercard, many small businesses don't take American Express.

Nonetheless, the event has grown in popularity since its 2010 inception and the Strip District wants to take advantage of that momentum with one of Pittsburghers' favorite things: free parking.

According to Strip District nonprofit Strip District Neighbor's Twitter feed, all meters in the strip district will be free of charge tomorrow (Nov. 26) for Small Business Saturday. Strip District Neighbors also created a handy deal guide that details more than a dozen sales and deals of participating retailers, restaurants and bars.

Deals include 10 percent off all furniture at boutique furniture store Hot Haute Hot, 10 percent discount on all purchases at Mancini's Bread Co., and $5 off purchase of $25 at Bradley's Book Outlet.

The deals and free parking last all day. Check individual business' websites for their listed hours.


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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra reaches an agreement with management

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 4:42 PM

PSO musicians and allies striking in September - CP PHOTO BY STEPHEN CARUSO
  • CP photo by Stephen Caruso
  • PSO musicians and allies striking in September
After a 54-day work stoppage, Heinz Hall will be filled with music again.

The musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the symphony’s management reached an agreement today to end the strike by signing a new five-year contract.

“The management and Board of Trustees of the Pittsburgh Symphony are unwavering in a collective commitment to our orchestra's artistic mission and to its excellence — past, present, and future,” Melia Tourangeau, president and CEO of the symphony, said in a press release. “We asked the musicians to be a partner in the solution to the exceptionally difficult financial position we are working to correct and we are grateful for their sacrifice. They have, indeed, come together with us in a powerful way to help position the Pittsburgh Symphony’s future.”

The new contract includes a 10.5 percent decrease in musician wages in the first year, but one that will only effectively be a 7.5 percent cut due to “a generous contribution from an anonymous donor.”

After a salary freeze in the second year, wages will slowly climb back to their original level by the fifth year of the contract.

Also, the musician's benefits plan will be transferred to a defined contributions plan, while three open positions within the 99 piece orchestra will remain unfilled for the duration of the contract.

The strike, the symphony’s first since 1975 and second ever, began on Sept. 30 after months-old negotiations between the two sides in spite of federal arbitration.

The musicians, members of American Federation of Musicians Local 60-471, called for the strike after management refused to back down on demands for a 15 percent pay cut to the musicians, as well as reduced benefits and freezing three open positions in the orchestra, up to management's discretion.

Management called for the cuts to improve the symphony’s financial situation, including $11 million in debt and a $1.5 million budget deficit.

Musicians countered that the symphony’s financial situation was not as bad as management claimed, and worried the cuts would make the symphony less attractive and hurt its competitiveness for top performers.

While still upset at the scope of the contracts cuts, Micah Howard, chair of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Committee, is optimistic for the future of the orchestra following the agreement.

“These were painful and substantial concessions,” Howard said in a release. “But we agreed to work with management to face our financial challenges head-on. Both parties came together in the spirit of true compromise, to ensure that we can resume performing at Heinz Hall.”

Negotiations restarted in early November as both sides agreed to an independent audit of the symphony's finances.

The strike led to the cancellation of all symphony concerts up to Dec. 5, as well as shows by touring entertainers such as rock star Elvis Costello and comedians Brian Regan and Lewis Black who stood in solidarity with the striking musicians.

In honor of the new contract, the PSO will host two free concerts, on Dec. 2 and 4 at Heinz Hall.

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Advocates for Martin Esquivel-Hernandez rally at Philadelphia immigration office

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 11:39 AM

Alma Brigido, wife of Martin Esquivel-Hernandez, interviewed by Philadelphia-area Spanish language TV news - PHOTO COURTESY OF MONICA RUIZ
  • Photo courtesy of Monica Ruiz
  • Alma Brigido, wife of Martin Esquivel-Hernandez, interviewed by Philadelphia-area Spanish language TV news
Last week, advocates fighting for Martin Esquivel-Hernandez, a Pittsburgh undocumented immigrant from Mexico who is currently facing possible deportation, took to the Downtown Pittsburgh streets to demand U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) release Esquivel-Hernandez, so he can return home to his wife and three kids, one of whom is an American citizen.

Now ICE is hinting this isn’t going to happen. ICE officials issued this statement to Pittsburgh City Paper when asked if they had plans to release Esquivel-Hernandez: “ICE intends to take custody of the individual after the full resolution of the pending federal charges, to include any potential conviction and subsequent prison term.”

Esquivel-Hernandez has no prior criminal record and has been a volunteer in the Latino community since arriving in Pittsburgh. He attempted to enter the country illegally four times to be with his family, before finally succeeding in 2012. He has been charged with felony re-entry, but his lawyer is currently negotiating for a lesser sentence. If negotiations succeed, the only thing keeping Esquivel-Hernandez from being released from a private prison in Youngstown, Ohio, is ICE maintaining a detainer on him.

On Nov. 21, the Esquivel-Hernandez family and his advocates from Latino-rights group Casa San Jose took their request directly to the ICE field office in Philadelphia to demand that ICE regional officer Thomas Decker release Esquivel-Hernandez.

“Martin is a man that has always found ways to help others without thinking of himself,” said Esquivel-Hernandez’s wife, Alma Brigido, in a press release. “Thomas Decker and ICE, you use your power for injustice, depriving us from having the possibilities to support our families. We are all the same, you all have families, so do we."

More than 50 rally attendees, including 14 from the Pittsburgh area, protested outside the ICE office and held a 30-foot orange banner reading “Bring Martin Home.” Gabriel McMorland, of the Pittsburgh advocacy-group the Thomas Merton Center, attended the Philadelphia rally and said that ICE officials didn’t address the protesters, but he was confident their message was made.

“ICE did not come outside,” says McMorland. “But I think they knew we were there. Our banner was bigger than a minivan.”

Esquivel-Hernandez traveled 5,000 miles on an eight-month ordeal to reunite with his family, sleeping in abandoned homes, crawling through thorny bushes and avoiding rattlesnakes. The U.S. Attorney’s office of Western Pennsylvania, deemed him a “flight risk” in court documents, and he has been detained in Youngstown for six months.

McMorland disagrees that Esquivel-Hernandez is a flight risk. “This is a man who has risked his life to get here,” says McMorland. “I struggle to imagine who can be less of flight risk. He risked his life multiple times to be with his family in Pittsburgh. Why would he leave?”

The rally was supported by Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizen Coalition, a statewide immigrant-rights group. The rally also marched to Arch Street Methodist Church in Philadelphia, where another Mexican undocumented immigrant, Javier Flores of Philadelphia, has taken up asylum to avoid deportation. Flores has a wife and three children, all of whom are U.S. citizens.

“We recognize that the struggle to keep families together and push back against the harsh enforcement policies of the Obama administration is not about just one city or one family,” said Sundrop Carter of PICC in a press release. “That is why we are building a statewide movement, so we can fight side by side to protect our communities, and fight for just and humane policies.”

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Pittsburgh organ donor's family meets the lives he saved

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 10:26 AM

Mary Grace Hensell - CP PHOTO BY STEPHEN CARUSO
  • CP photo by Stephen Caruso
  • Mary Grace Hensell
When John Chomko, 59, was told he had pancreatic cancer, he knew from the start his odds for survival were minimal.

“When I was diagnosed, the doctor told me to settle my things,” Chomko says.

Even after multiple procedures, his prognosis did not improve. The cancer had been removed from much of his body, except for parts of his liver. Without a donation, he would die.

Five years ago, on April 1, at 6 a.m., he found out he had his donation, because of the tragic death of Brian Hensell, 24, who had been killed in a car crash two days earlier.

Knowing how close he was to death, and looking at how he survived, Chomko feels grateful for each day that goes by.

“You have a higher sense of urgency to do things in your life,” he says.

On Monday night in Shadyside, at Family House, an affordable, home-like residence for the families of Pittsburgh hospital patients, Donate Life Pennsylvania and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education hosted a dinner to let Chomko and other organ recipients give thanks in person to the family of the man who saved their lives.

Hensell, had his heart, liver, pancreas and kidneys given to three men. Melvin Protzman, 63, received Hensell's heart; Brian McTiernan, 61, received his kidneys and pancreas; and Chomko, his liver.

Monday was Hensell's family's first chance to meet all the recipients and their own families. His mother, Mary Grace Hensell, had met Protzman about a year after his transplant, but had yet to meet Chomko or McTiernan.

“My son gets to live on in each and every one of you,” she said. “My son wanted it, and we wanted it too.”

At her side was her brother Louis Sico. He saw the meeting as a chance to make sense of his family’s personal loss.

“I’m so happy to see the families that ... his life has tremendous meaning [for],” Sico said. “He’s lived on through three people.”

Hensell's mother also handed out small books to each of the recipients of her son's organs, featuring pictures of him and details about his life.

“I just want you to know him a little bit like how we know him,” she said to the three men.

The combined families then sat down for dinner. As the table was slowly covered in food, Protzman, the recipient of Hensell’s heart, gave a short prayer and asked everyone at the table to say what they were thankful for.

Looking at Hensell's mother, he remembered when they first met and how they bonded over her loss.

“Mary Grace, I am thankful for you and all the things we have done together to remember Brian,” Protzman said. “My gift to you, is you can listen to Brian’s heart whenever you wish.”

With a small picture of her son — engraved with “a heartbeat lasts a mere second, but your son’s gift is eternal” — looking on from behind her, Mary Grace Hensell felt solace. By meeting the assembled recipients, she felt that they would always honor her son for the second chance he gave them.

“I just want them to remember Brian,” she said. “The worst thing for a mother is for your son to be forgotten.”

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Steel City Holiday Pop-Up Shop comes to Downtown Pittsburgh

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 5:14 PM

CP PHOTO BY REBECCA ADDISON
  • CP photo by Rebecca Addison
Downtown Pittsburgh will have a new tenant this holiday season. Officially opening on Black Friday, Steel City, an online clothing and accessories retailer, has taken over the storefront at 625 Smithfield St.

Run by husband and wife team Brandon and Carly Grbach, Steel City sells vintage-inspired shirts, sweatshirts, hats and more. And all of their wares celebrate Pittsburgh.

"It's mostly '60s- and '70s-inspired apparel," Brandon says. "We try to take the touristy kind of shirt and we upscale it with quality material."

Brandon found out about the Smithfield Street location during online clothing retailer ModCloth's pop-up shop there earlier this year. And thanks in part to a grant from the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Steel City will inhabit the space through Christmas Eve.

"I love Downtown. It's so iconic and I just wanted to give it a try," says Brandon. "With a brand like Steel City, it's all about Pittsburgh, so where better than the heart of the city."

Brandon first got involved in apparel design after dropping out of the University of Pittsburgh. "I just took up apparel design as a Hail Mary," he says.

He was hired to create a Pittsburgh zombie T-shirt, and his design, which parodied the Pittsburgh Pirates logo (substituting the pirate with a zombie and giving him a baseball bat wrapped in chains with a gun thrown in for good measure), was turned down by the client. But it was popular elsewhere and gained Brandon notoriety after former Pirates player A.J. Burnett wore the shirt in pre-game interviews.

Today Steel City is the only independent brand featured by the NFL. And they once raised $14,000 in two weeks for Breast Cancer awareness.

"It really has been a collaboration of a lot of people to make this work," says Brandon.

Carly says a large portion of their clientele are "expat displaced yinzers." Forty percent of Steel City's online sales are to out-of-state buyers. And they've even sold to a couple of boutiques in Japan.

For a sneak preview of what they offer, check out Steel City's soft opening tonight from 7-9 p.m. during Light Up Night's festivities. Stop in for refreshments and a 15 percent discount on everything in the store.

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Two arrested during student-debt protest at University of Pittsburgh

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 11:49 AM

Student-debt protesters march through Oakland. - CP PHOTO BY STEPHEN CARUSO
  • CP photo by Stephen Caruso
  • Student-debt protesters march through Oakland.
University of Pittsburgh police arrested two people Thursday night after a protest against student debt and president-elect Donald Trump on Pitt’s campus turned violent.

According to Pitt spokesperson Joe Miksch, the students were charged with aggravated assault, resisting arrest and trespassing after they “attempted to enter Litchfield Towers lobby after being asked by university police to not do so.”

Police attempts to clear the lobby of Litchfield’s Tower B sparked a fight after police pushed a female protester who responded with a push of her own. Following the altercation, police subdued and handcuffed three marchers, including that woman.

Protesters clash with police on the University of Pittsburgh campus. - CP PHOTO BY STEPHEN CARUSO
  • CP photo by Stephen Caruso
  • Protesters clash with police on the University of Pittsburgh campus.
The demonstration started as a Facebook event hosted by Pitt Against Debt, a student group. But due to the recent election, anti-Trump sentiment coalesced around the march as well. Other groups, such as Pittsburgh Student Solidarity Coalition, also advertised the event on their Facebook pages.

Participants gathered outside the Cathedral of Learning at 5 p.m, spray-painting cardboard signs and sharing chant sheets.

The protest marked the third election-inspired demonstration within the last 48 hours to gather in front of the Cathedral, as well as one of at least eight demonstrations to occur in Pittsburgh in the nine days since the presidential election.

The assembled activists listened to speeches by numerous individuals. Among them were Michael Quinn, a Carnegie Mellon junior art major, who said he attended the event with “the knowledge that if [people] don’t make noise,” xenophobia, homophobia and racism would become “normalized.”

Quinn asserted the crowd had an obligation to protest peacefully, to which a protester in the back responded, “You protest your way, I’ll protest mine.”

After a few warm-up chants of “no Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA,” the protesters marched onto Forbes Avenue toward Carnegie Mellon, looping around Oakland onto Fifth Avenue.

Led by a fluttering black flag and banners reading “raise hell not tuition” and “our grandparents killed fascists”, the marchers recited, “This is what a police state looks like,” as Pittsburgh city police on motorcycles cleared the road ahead. Behind, bicycle-mounted officers, a police truck and multiple cars followed, lights flashing crimson and blue.

While debt and Trump were the announced focus of dissent, protesters chanted about issues ranging from Black Lives Matter to immigration to anti-police sentiment.

Emily Brower, a Pitt junior majoring in sociology, saw the point of marching as greater than any one issue.

“[Protest] lets us feel we have a voice,” Brower said.

As the marchers, some with bandanas covering their face, entered Pitt’s campus proper, they swung down Atwood Street, crossed Forbes Avenue, and then marched back onto the main artery after a brief foray down Sennott Street. The protesters' chants and signs drew the attention of pedestrians, who encouraged the protesters, complimented the police or pulled up their phones to record the event.

In response, demonstrators chimed in that the leery watchers should “get off their phones and into the streets.” A few, such as a still-sweating jogger, accepted the invitation.

From Fifth, the marchers then climbed stairs to Litchfield Towers, and, over the objections of a Pitt police officer, entered through the revolving doors into the lobby.

For 10 minutes, member of the group gave speeches and sang. Some students stood and watched, while others continued on their way to their dorm rooms or the dining hall.

While inside, one student was detained — but not arrested — by Pitt police for planning to place speakers in the University’s quad for a public, post-protest celebration. After marching to the quad, the protesters chanted at the still-trailing Pitt police to “let him go,” as silhouetted students looked on from dorm windows overhead.

Re-energized by the police detaining a fellow student, the group marched back to Litchfield Towers. Finding its way into the main lobby blocked by police bikes, about a third of the group entered Tower B’s lobby before police cut off its ranks. Cries for their friends’ freedom echoed around the room.

Pitt Police then entered the lobby from both sides to evict the protesters from the lobby, pushing and grabbing protesters to herd the demonstrators out. One of the marchers pushed back, starting a brief fight between baton-armed police and a handful of the protesters, which ended with two women and one masked individual in handcuffs.

Police then quickly forced all the protesters out of the lobby, shoving and prodding them onto Litchfield Tower’s patio. Reinforced by Pittsburgh Police armed with bean-bag shotguns, law enforcement pushed the protesters off University property onto Fifth Avenue’s sidewalk.

Only two protesters were arrested; one, named Philip, was taken away in handcuffs into a waiting Pittsburgh Police car on Forbes Avenue. As police closed the door, protesters chanted his name.

Angela Ryu, a Pitt alum and current Pitt staff member who participated in the protests and watched events unfold, found the Pitt police’s action ironic; in a Facebook post she shared on Pittsburgh Student Solidarity Coalition’s website after the protest, she wrote:

"Let it be known that tonight, tuition-paying students were forced out of the spaces that exist and are maintained solely for their use by brutal force wielded by policemen who are paid through the tuition these students pay.”

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

New gas-leak-monitoring initiative has climate in mind

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2016 at 4:44 PM

Pittsburgh’s natural-gas lines are old, and many leak. Thanks to a collaboration between the Environmental Defense Fund and Google Earth Outreach, pipeline operators are getting a better idea of where those leaks are and how to target the worst of them — a project whose main goal is fighting climate change.

Google Street View car equipped with methane sensor (the methane sensor is in the trunk; the device on top is a Street View camera) - CP PHOTO BY BILL O'DRISCOLL
  • CP Photo by Bill O'Driscoll
  • Google Street View car equipped with methane sensor (the methane sensor is in the trunk; the device on top is a Street View camera)
A four-year-old joint project of the groups uses specially equipped Google Street View mapping cars to sense methane leaks beneath city streets. The initiative, which began in cities including Chicago, Boston and Dallas, came to Pittsburgh at the request of Peoples Gas, which owns the pipes.

This morning, at a Downtown press event attended by Gov. Tom Wolf, Mayor Bill Peduto and Peoples Gas CEO Morgan O’Brien, EDF and Google released online maps showing the location and size of the leaks found so far, mostly in Downtown, the Strip District, Lawrenceville, the Hill District, Oakland and Highland Park. The idea is to help Peoples prioritize places to target as part of its 20-year, $3 billion program to replace the region’s aging lines.

“We need to be able to make the infrastructure tight,” said one of the speakers, EDF chief scientist Steven Hamburg.

It’s not a safety initiative, at 
EDF/Google Earth map of gas leaks as detected by car-mounted sensors: low-level (yellow), medium-level (orange) and high-level (red) - IMAGE COURTESY OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND
  • Image courtesy of Environmental Defense Fund
  • EDF/Google Earth map of gas leaks as detected by car-mounted sensors: low-level (yellow), medium-level (orange) and high-level (red)
least in the conventional sense: Peoples is already required to monitor its lines for that purpose. Rather, it’s an environmental one. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, responsible for 25 percent of global warming, and leaks are one big component of methane emissions.

“We’re recognizing our aging infrastructure is a contributor to the emissions,” said Ed Palumbo, Peoples’ vice president for reliability.

So far, EDF and Google have outfitted four cars with the sensors, and Pittsburgh is the 11th city for which monitoring date has been released.

The Google-car-mounted sensors are significantly more sensitive than the equipment utility companies typically use to find leaks; they measure the size of a leak, not just its presence. Results have varied widely by city. In Indianapolis, Ind., which has newer gas lines, sensors found only one leak per 200 miles driven, all of them low-level. In Boston, sensors detected about one leak per mile, about 13 percent of them medium- or high-level.

In Pittsburgh, where nearly half the pipes are more than 50 years old (and many are made of more leak-prone material, like cast iron or uncoated steel), the results so far have been more Boston-like: one leak every two miles, about 15 percent of them medium- or high-level.

Continue reading »

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Pittsburgh undocumented immigrant could be released from detention next month

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2016 at 2:08 PM

More than 100 protesters fill Liberty Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh to demand that Martin Esquivel-Hernandez be released. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • More than 100 protesters fill Liberty Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh to demand that Martin Esquivel-Hernandez be released.
The fight to keep Martin Esquivel-Hernandez, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, in Pittsburgh may be turning. Esquivel-Hernandez has been detained in a private, for-profit prison in Youngstown, Ohio, for more than six months. He has no prior criminal record, has been an advocate for immigrant rights here in Pittsburgh, and traveled more than 5,000 miles over eight months to reunite with his family in the Steel City. And now there is a possibility he will be released and returned home early next month.

Currently, his lawyer Sally Frick is negotiating a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney that would lower Esquivel-Hernandez’s felony re-entry charge to a lesser offense that could remove him from a list of priorities that keep him detained, according to Antonia Domingo, of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), who is advocating on behalf of Esquivel-Hernandez. A change of plea hearing is scheduled on Dec. 8.

However, even if his charge were to be downgraded, Esquivel-Hernandez would still need to have his U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer dropped, or he could be subject to an immigration court hearing and possibly still face deportation.

Esquivel-Hernandez’s supporters took to the streets on Nov. 15 to continue to tell his story and to demand that ICE Pennsylvania Field Officer Thomas Decker release Esquivel-Hernandez’s detainer. More than 100 protesters marched from Mellon Square in Downtown Pittsburgh to the federal office building on Liberty Avenue, where they occupied the street and chanted “Bring Martin home.”

LCLAA president Guillermo Perez spoke outside the federal building and pleaded to ICE to release Esquivel-Hernandez. “People like Martin make an important contribution to the community,” said Perez. “The undocumented are part of the American Dream. … Decker has the power to give prosecutorial discretion and return a good man to his family.”

The Pennsylvania ICE Field Office did not return request for comment by press time.

Shayla Esquivel-Hernandez speaking at a rally in support of her father - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Shayla Esquivel-Hernandez speaking at a rally in support of her father
Esquivel-Hernandez's oldest daughter Shayla, who is 10, also spoke at the rally about the negative effects her father’s long absence is having on the family. “It is affecting me and my whole family,” said Shayla. “It’s getting harder to lie and tell my little brother that his dad is still just at work.”

Joining the campaign was a group of labor advocates that swelled the numbers, normally in the 10-15 range at previous rallies, to more than 100 marching through the street. Groups supporting Esquivel-Hernandez now include the Thomas Merton Center, Fight for $15, Casa San Jose and Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network. Kai Pang, of labor-coalition Pittsburgh United, said that labor supports all workers, including the undocumented.

“It’s more urgent than ever for us to protect the immigrant community, since there is a lot of uncertainty moving forward,” said Pang before the rally. “I feel compelled to stand with the most vulnerable, and I know a lot of people in the labor movement feel the same way too.”

However, LCLAA's Perez is concerned about Esquivel-Hernandez and other undocumented immigrants moving forward because of the campaign promises of President-elect Donald Trump. "What we face before us is concerning to say the least," said Perez. "The president-elect waged a campaign based on racism and xenophobia."

Trump has since walked back promises of a deportation force to round up and deport all 11 million or so undocumented immigrants, but other immigration policies are uncertain. But Esquivel-Hernandez does have an ally in the federal government with U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills).

Doyle sent a representative to the march to offer support for the Esquivel-Hernandez family. “Congressman Doyle wanted to express his support, and he appreciates the role Martin has played in the community,” said Bridget Barrett of Doyle’s office.

Perez capped the rally with a typical chant used when communities advocate for Latino undocumented immigrants who face deportation. “Aqui estamos, y no nos vamos,” said Perez. We are here, and we are not going anywhere.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

March against Dakota Access Pipeline tomorrow in Pittsburgh

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 2:04 PM

As part of an international day of solidarity with opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a march and rally are planned Downtown tomorrow.

Anti-Dakota Access Pipeline protest here in September - CP FILE PHOTO BY REBECCA ADDISON
  • CP file photo by Rebecca Addison
  • Anti-Dakota Access Pipeline protest here in September
The event begins at 11 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 328 Stanwix St., and will continue until 1 p.m. Some marchers will proceed to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, while others will go to the Federal Building, which houses an office of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Marchers intend to show their solidarity with Native Americans and others seeking to prevent construction of the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline, which would carry fracked crude oil from the shale fields of North Dakota to ports in Illinois. The route crosses traditional lands of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which says it threatens water quality and desecrates sacred lands.

Opponents add that anything that facilitates more burning of fossil fuels is also bad for the climate.

Opponents at the construction site, who call themselves “water protecters” rather than “protesters” — and some of whom have been camped there since spring — have been subject to harsh treatment at the hands of police, who’ve used tear gas, rubber bullets, sound cannons and more.

Dakota Access Pipeline opponents say their cause has become more urgent with the election of fossil-fuel advocate Donald Trump as president. They are calling on President Obama’s Army Corps of Engineers to deny the final permit needed to complete the pipeline, and say a timely decision could halt the project once and for all.

The issue has already sparked several street protests locally in recent months.

Tomorrow's event is organized by groups including the Thomas Merton Center, Pittsburgh 350 and Marcellus Protest.

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