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Friday, February 27, 2015

Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 at 4:18 PM

For at least the second time under Mayor Bill Peduto's watch, the city is promising "outside review" of potential excessive force by police without saying who will conduct that review or how they'll be selected.

This afternoon, the city announced its internal affairs unit, known as the Office of Municipal Investigations (OMI), is investigating a Wednesday incident in which police engaged in a high-speed Downtown pursuit of Devon Davis, a 23-year-old who was wanted on warrants for illegal gun possession and drug delivery.

After wrecking his car, police chased Davis on foot and eventually arrested him, using force that included a leg sweep to bring him to the ground, striking him "on the side or stomach multiple times" and hitting him in the leg with a baton, according to a criminal complaint cited by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Police wrote in the complaint that Davis was resisting arrest, but "some witnesses said they heard the man scream, 'I’m not doing anything,' as officers encircling him struck him with their fists or a baton," the P-G reported.

The allegation that the police may have used excessive force has prompted the city to promise that "as with all use of force cases where impropriety is alleged, OMI will seek an outside review by a third party expert as part of its investigation," according to a press release issued this afternoon. 

In other words, the city is promising two investigations: one by the city's internal investigators and one by an outside source. But, without explanation, the city is refusing to say who that outside source will be or whether their final reports should be public. "OMI hasn’t decided who that third party will be," says mayoral spokesman Tim McNulty. “That’s all we have to say at this time.”

Of course, it's possible the city hasn't figured out who the outside investigator will be. But it's not the first time the city has stayed silent on who these outside investigators are or why the public should trust the findings of an anonymous investigator. In response to an incident at PrideFest last summer in which a teenage girl was punched by a police officer while he was trying to arrest her, the city made similar assurances about hiring an independent investigator. That was when the city announced a new policy to use outside investigators to review excessive force cases. 

In that case, an outside investigator ruled that the officer's actions were justified. The city never publicly said who had conducted that investigation or offered a rationale for how they reached that conclusion, a move that drew criticism from some police accountability experts.

Citizen Police Review Board executive director Beth Pittinger, who has launched her own investigation into the Davis case, says the city should solicit outside opinions in excessive force cases, but “I don’t think that should be a secret.

"They’re going to have to pay them for their opinion – that’s a matter of public money.”

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Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 at 12:12 PM

Members of the public and local disability community will hold a vigil this Sunday in Market Square to honor disabled people who were killed at the hands of their caretakers.

The event is part of the National Day of Mourning, which has existed since 2012 and will include 22 cities across the country, not including cities in Canada, Hungary and the U.K. It's designed to raise awareness about the "alarming number of disabled people [who] are killed by family and caregivers," according to Jessica Hughes, a volunteer with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN).

In the last five years, according to ASAN, around 70 people with disabilities have been killed by their parents; the vigil will include a reading of their names. The vigil will also feature speakers in the local disability community including Cori Frazer, an organizer of the local chapter of ASAN whom I wrote about in November

Hughes says an important component of the event is to talk about the way these deaths are covered by news outlets. She points to cases such as London McCabe — a 6-year-old non-verbal autistic boy whose mother threw him off a bridge in Oregon — as examples of narratives that describe the death of the disabled as somehow understandable. 

"It’s not only that the victims are swept to the side; they’re also portrayed as the cause of their own murders,” Hughes says. The vigil will help "remember their lives and remember they had meaning" and encourage people "to think about what it means to be a disabled person murdered by someone you love and trust."

The vigil starts Sunday at 1 p.m. in Market Square, Downtown.

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Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 at 10:41 AM

Of course, you can count on the local news shows to keep its viewers up to date on such important food stories as diet tips, weird things found in food and Weinermobile accidents.

Now, WTAE's long-form news show, Chronicle, promises to showcase the growing Pittsburgh food scene — everything from farms and food trucks to neighborhood joints and national accolades. Chronicle: Taste of the 'Burgh airs at 10 p.m. Mon., March 2.

You can catch a preview here.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 4:08 PM

The CP Weekend podcast for Feb. 27-March 1 is now available here on the CP website.  In store for you this weekend: two maple syrup-making events, a seed swap, a live music performance at a Downtown art gallery and much more.

The podcast is hosted by our Music Editor Maragaret Welsh and produced by me, Multimedia Editor Ashley Murray. For updates on what's happening this weekend, follow the hashtag #CPWeekend on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 11:53 AM

This week marks the four-month anniversary since Andre Gray suddenly disappeared — prompting some activists and members of the local LGBT community to renew their calls for help finding him. 

His disappearance has puzzled his family and police, who are still investigating but have yet to make any arrests in the case, according to police spokeswoman Sonya Toler.

His mother, Victoria Gray-Tillman, found his apartment ransacked last October after he didn't return her phone calls. Inside, she found blood, bleach and duct tape, and noticed that his car and other items from the apartment were missing.  (The car was later found, partially burned, on the North Side.)

Gray was out to his friends and family, and was set to start a job at Project Silk, a local organization that does outreach predominantly among minorities in the local LGBT community. "He was very much like a father figure to lot of people,” says Nayck Feliz, a volunteer and former associate director of Silk. "He wanted to help out even if he wasn’t paid."

Activist and blogger Sue Kerr has been working with Gray's family to get the word out and to raise money to reward anyone who comes forward with information. Crime Stoppers is offering $1,000, but Kerr says that might not be enough to encourage people to come forward, which is part of the reason she helped launch a crowdfunding site. (Contributions can also be made via the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, or by dropping a check at any PNC branch made out to the "Andre Gray Missing Person Fund.")

Gray-Tillman says her son "was very close, very family oriented,” and the only reason she could imagine someone wanting to hurt him was out of "jealously and greed." She says Gray recently received a several thousand dollar settlement from his landlord after falling off a porch and he wasn't shy about taking friends out to dinner or buying things for them.

Over the past four months, Gray-Tillman's sense of what it would mean to get closure has changed. "I’m always hopeful he’s alive, but it being four months, closure for me would be to see his hand." It's the site of his first tattoo — a strawberry filled with his mother's name.

Anyone with information about Andre's disappearance can call 911 or the Pittsburgh Police Missing Persons Unit at 412-323-7141. 

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Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 9:00 AM

The big annual competition for local Moth storytellers, at the New Hazlett Theater, promises to be a lot of fun.

The event rounds up the winners from the monthly StorySLAMs, at the Rex Theater, for a Moth-off.

Each teller delivers a short story – ranging from funny to serious — on a given theme. With no notes allowed, there's an air of spontaneity (though rest assured that the performers, professionals or no, will be well-rehearsed.) Teams of judges pick a winner.

Here, for instance, was my take on the inaugural GrandSLAM, in 2013.

Though tickets still remain, expect a full house at tonight’s Pittsburgh Moth GrandSLAM III: When Worlds Collide. The PR material says: “Listen to ten tellers tell stories of dog people versus cat people. Fire versus ice. Politics versus Truth. Krispy Kreme versus Tofu. You say Potato, I say Potatoe.”

The host is the very funny Alan Olifson. The storytellers are include: Zak Bouc, Michael Buzzelli, Catherine Palmer, Brittany Story, Carol Schubert, David Montgomery, Torrey Shineman, Joe Prince, Denise Kendig Scheuermann and Jim Tasillo.

The show starts at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $25 and are available here.

The New Hazlett is located at 6 Allegheny Square East, on the North Side. 

If you want to check out the monthly Rex events, they’re on the first Tuesday of each month. The next one, on March 3, is themed "Hair."

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 4:32 PM

This year's primary election falls on May 19, the same day as Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty's birthday. On that day, he hopes voters will select him as the Democratic nominee for State Supreme Court in November's general election. 

"I'm running for the Supreme Court, so I can bring my sense of justice, my sense of equality for all," said Dougherty. "I've dedicated my life to the marginalized, the at-risk, the poor, the working poor. I will make sure all voices and all people will be heard."

Today, Dougherty received an early birthday present when four local government officials endorsed him for the Supreme Court seat. At a press conference at the Allegheny County Courthouse, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, County Treasurer John Weinstein and District 8 Pittsburgh City Councilor Dan Gilman announced their endorsement. District Attorney Stephen Zappala is also endorsing Dougherty, but was unable to attend. 

click to enlarge From left: Judge Kevin Dougherty, Councilor Dan Gilman, Treasurer John Weinstein and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald - PHOTO BY REBECCA NUTTALL
Photo By Rebecca Nuttall
From left: Judge Kevin Dougherty, Councilor Dan Gilman, Treasurer John Weinstein and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald

"This is a very important election that's important, not just locally, but across the state," said Fitzgerald.

Gilman cited Dougherty's "passion for fairness, justice and equality," as reasons to endorse him for Supreme Court.

"There are so many issues that are important to our working-class families ... that are going to come up before the Supreme Court," said Councilor Gilman.

At the press conference, the local representatives highlighted the importance of the upcoming Supreme Court election in which three seats will be decided.

"The court has gone through a lot of issues, as we all know, and it's time for impeccable integrity," said County Treasurer Weinstein‎.

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Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 2:00 PM

Four performances remain of this striking premiere of a work by local playwright Lissa Brennan.

click to enlarge Linda Haston (left) and Siovhan Christensen in "For the Tree to Drop" - PHOTO COURTESY OF SUELLEN FITZSIMMONS
Photo courtesy of Suellen Fitzsimmons
Linda Haston (left) and Siovhan Christensen in "For the Tree to Drop"
It’s an interesting selection for PICT to launch its first-ever Downtown performance series: Inspired by Antigone, For the Tree to Drop finds common ground between Greek tragedy, psychodrama and experimental theater.

Like Antigone, the play depicts a woman who in the face of opposition by the authorities and her community insists on her right to bury her dead brother’s body. Brennan sets the action on a plantation in the pre-Emancipation South. But costumes aside, this doesn’t pretend to be an historical drama.

For instance, though Estella, the sister, is a slave (as was her lynched brother), she converses and disputes with plantation owner Edgar in a candid manner that – in any other historical or even fictional rendering – would surely get her whipped. The fact of Edgar’s “ownership” prevents them from being equals, and of course anchors the play’s power dynamic. Yet Brennan’s portrayal feels like an almost expressionistic way of insisting on the pair’s equality as humans. It's weirdly charged and quite effective.

The play lacks conventional narrative motion, and often feels more like a dream: a single moment stretched out for exploration, with a week or more of narrative time played out in one continuous scene, with night and day only mentioned, never portrayed. That impression is abetted by the fact that while all five actors are on stage for the whole show, at any given moment most of them neither speaks nor moves.

The production, directed by PICT’s Alan Stanford, features fine performances by the cast, led by relative newcomer Siovhan Christensen, as Estella, and PICT veteran David Whalen, as Edgar.

Still, the show’s biggest strengths just might be Brennan’s vivid, poetic dialogue and the play’s powerful portrait of resistance to injustice. (Full disclosure: Brennan’s a frequent contributor to CP’s visual-arts coverage.)

Here’s Colette Newby’s review of For the Tree to Drop for CP.

The show is staged in the Peirce Studio, the nicely turned-out basement space at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Trust Arts Education Center, at 805 Liberty Ave.

Tickets are $48 and available here.

One of the four remaining shows is tonight. Performances tomorrow and Saturday are sold out. However, standing-room tickets for those two are available at half-price – not a bad deal on a show that runs just 70 intermissionless minutes.

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Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 11:17 AM

Every Wednesday, we make a Spotify playlist containing tracks from artists covered in the current music section or included in our concert listings or mentioned on the CP Weekend Podcast. Listen while you read!

click to enlarge Photo courtesy of Tara Austel - HUBBS
Photo courtesy of Tara Austel

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Posted By on Tue, Feb 24, 2015 at 5:13 PM

As we crawl slowly toward springtime, take heart! The spring/summer concert season is shaping up to be a good one. Here are some of the shows that have been announced over the last few days:

click to enlarge William Fitzsimmons - ERIN BROWN
Erin Brown
William Fitzsimmons

Sad-sacks rejoice (or be less sad): Damien Rice brings his world tour to Stage AE, June 18. Tickets: $38.50-40, on sale Friday.

Earl Sweatshirt will be joined by Remy Banks and  Vince Staples at Mr. Smalls, April 4 ($25, on sale now). My recommendation? Get your tickets ASAP.

Also coming to Mr. Smalls: Mark Battles on April 10 ($10, on sale now); ILoveMakonnen on May 4 ($20-22, on sale Friday);  William Fitzsimmons & Denison Witmer, May 18 ($18-20, on sale Thursday); Paul Weller, June 19 ($30, on sale Friday).

Oh yeah, and m-f-ing Mudhoney, with locals The Cynics and Nox Boys, July 8 ($16-18, on sale Friday)

Coming to the BrilloboxWilliam Elliott Whitmore and Esme Patterson, April 15 ($13-15, on sale Friday); Kate Tempest, June 10 ($10-13, on sale now)

Aaaaand a few new shows scheduled at Club CafeThe Getaway with JontiTrot, April 4 ($7, on sale now); Feaufollet (hailed as "the future of Cajun music"), April 7 ($10-12, on sale now); Exmag with Pomo and M!NT, May 6 ($10-15, on sale now);

Aaaaaaaaaaaand, on May 4, Ben Folds comes to the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall. Tickets run $45-50, and go on sale Saturday at noon. 

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