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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 4:29 PM

click to enlarge Some Pittsburghers upset that controversial comedian Owen Benjamin performed at Carnegie Public Library facility in Oakland
Photo courtesy of Piotrus, Creative Commons
The lecture hall at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main Branch
In April, controversy ensued following an online scuffle between local comedian Day Bracey and far-right comedian Owen Benjamin. The New Hazlett Theater canceled Benjamin’s show after discovering his history of racist and homophobic comments on social media. Bracey, who is African American, reacted by saying other venues shouldn't work with Benjamin.

But, on April 28, Benjamin secured a venue and performed a comedy show. He rented out the lecture hall at the Main Branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, in Oakland. According to Carnegie Library spokesperson Suzanne Thinnes, Benjamin rented out the space as a private event, and the library didn’t promote or market the show, nor does the library promote or market any private event. Tickets were sold through Benjamin’s website, and the location of the event was only shared after tickets were purchased.

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Posted By on Thu, Apr 26, 2018 at 3:38 PM

click to enlarge Advocates say Amazon HQ2 would not fit with Pittsburgh’s vision of equitable development
CP photo byt Ryan Deto
Protesters gathered outside the p4 conference on April 26
April 26 is the second day of the annual p4 conference at the David L. Lawrence convention center in Downtown Pittsburgh. The conference brings together regional and national leaders to discuss strategies on how to achieve equitable development in cities like Pittsburgh. Attendees at this year’s conference include Julian Castro, a Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Barack Obama, and Nikki Fortunato Bas, the director of the nationwide economic-justice organization Partnership for Working Families.

But as leaders discussed and shared ideas on how best to build inclusive and equitable cities, about 30 housing and transit advocates gathered outside the conference earlier today to claim that some of the city's leaders, like Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto are acting hypocritically. Laura Wiens, head of transit advocacy group Pittsburghers for Public Transit, said Peduto’s failure to release Pittsburgh’s bid for Amazon second headquarters, also called HQ2, flies in the face of the values held up by p4. She also called on Peduto to make Pittsburgh's bid to Amazon public.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2018 at 1:43 PM

click to enlarge Faith groups protest PNC and want bank to divest funds from nuclear weapon manufacturers
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Anti-nuclear weapons protesters outside of PNC Tower on April 24
Paul Dordal is worried. The Pittsburgh resident and organizer with the Western Pennsylvania chapter of Veterans for Peace is concerned about the growing threat of nuclear war. During the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump spoke often about nuclear weapons and, at times, encouraged the idea of a nuclear-arms race between foreign countries. Now that Trump is president and feuds appear to be escalating with enemy nations like North Korea, Dordal and a group of protesters are taking action.

But not against Trump; they are going straight to the source. On April 24, a group of 15 people gathered outside the PNC Tower in Downtown Pittsburgh and called for PNC Bank to stop providing funds to nuclear-weapons manufacturers. According to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, PNC has loaned about $1.2 billion to eight nuclear-arms manufacturers since 2013.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 5:30 PM

click to enlarge Duquesne University students volunteer to help integrate and educate Pittsburgh refugees
Photo courtesy of Jewish Family Community Services
Duquesne University student working with a young refugee
One of the most daunting tasks for refugee children in integrating into an American lifestyle is something most Americans take for granted: speaking English. According to Dr. Jennie Schulze, an assistant political-science professor at Duquesne University, language skills are one of the biggest barriers in getting refugee children properly educated in the U.S.

“There is a need to close that gap and help integrate these refugee students into our society,” said Schulze in a press release.

But Schulze and Duquesne students are being proactive about this issue and are volunteering their time to help Pittsburgh refugees. At an after-school program at the Pittsburgh Gifted Center in Crafton Heights, Duquesne students work with refugee children from Syria, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, helping them with homework and practicing English.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Posted By on Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 5:09 PM

After Pittsburgh’s March for Our Lives, legislators hoping new attention paid to Pennsylvania's gun-reform laws (2)
CP photo by Jake Mysliwczyk
Rally goer at March for Our Lives in Downtown Pittsburgh on March 24
In the month since a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. left 17 students and staff dead and several wounded, a renewed effort to reform gun laws has taken hold across the country, and in Pennsylvania.

This year, nearly a dozen pieces of gun-control legislation have been introduced in the Pa. state legislature. Some bills limit the sale and use of assault weapons, ban high capacity magazines and enact stricter gun-ownership laws. Some Pennsylvania elected officials are hoping young voters start to rally behind some of these bills.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Posted By on Tue, Mar 20, 2018 at 10:54 AM

Penn Plaza tenant group calls on city officials to reject proposed East Liberty development
CP photo by Aaron Warnick
Penn Plaza apartment complex before it was torn down
In summer of 2015, when property-development company LG Realty announced evictions of East Liberty’s Penn Plaza apartment complex, hundreds of residents were blindsided. After months-long negotiations, LG was allowed to move forward redeveloping the Penn Plaza property, in exchange for move-out costs for the tenants and money for Pittsburgh's affordable-housing fund.

However, the vast majority of Penn Plaza residents couldn’t find similar rents in East Liberty and were eventually forced to leave the neighborhood. Penn Plaza was torn down in 2017.

On March 14, the Pittsburgh city-planning department accepted LG's latest application for their redevelopment plan for the Penn Plaza site, which proposes the construction of office and retail spaces, as well as a parking lot. The Pittsburgh Planning Commission still has to vote on the proposal.

But the activist group that formed of former Penn Plaza tenants says the new plan doesn’t address issues that led to Penn Plaza tenants being forced from East Liberty in the first place. Penn Plaza Support and Action Coalition (PPSA) is calling on Pittsburgh’s Planning Commission to reject LG’s redevelopment plan since it doesn't include housing.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Posted By and on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 5:24 PM

click to enlarge As part of National Walkout Day, Pittsburgh-area students demonstrate, call for stricter gun laws
CP photo by Sabrina Bodon
Dozens of high school students gather in Market Square in Downtown after walking out of class
On March 14, thousands of students across the Pittsburgh region walked out of their classes to express their frustration with inaction from state and federal legislators on gun control. More than two dozen schools in the area participated in some kind of demonstration as part of National Walkout Day, whether it was an actual walkout, a discussion or a rally in the name of protesting gun-violence and mass shootings.

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Posted By on Fri, Mar 2, 2018 at 5:40 PM

click to enlarge University of Pittsburgh grad students want a public-health building on campus renamed
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia user Piotrus
Parran Hall on the University of Pittsburgh campus
Former U.S. Surgeon General Thomas Parran was the first dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health. That distinction granted Parran the distinction of having a building named for him: Parran Hall, which houses part of Pitt’s School of Public Health.

But a group of Pitt grad students wants to remind students and other Pittsburghers of Parran’s other memorable distinction, one of the more nefarious nature. While serving as surgeon general, Parran oversaw the Tuskegee and Guatemala syphilis experiments. The Tuskegee experiment enrolled hundreds of poor blacks from the rural American South, many of whom had syphilis, and left them untreated for decades to monitor their symptoms. Many participants were never informed they had syphilis.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 5:15 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh immigrant workers win wage-theft case for work they did at Robinson hotel
Photo courtesy of The Thomas Merton Center
Members of Pittsburgh's Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and the Thomas Merton Center celebrate winning the wage-theft settlement
Last month, four immigrant workers and their supporters braved single-digit temperatures to protest against a subcontractor they claimed never paid them for more than two weeks of work they did at a Courtyard Marriott in Robinson Township.

Antonio, one of those workers who only gave his first name in a Jan. 6 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said in Spanish to the crowd of protesters, “We’re calling on the hotel to put pressure on the [sub] contractor to get our pay.”

The group of four Latino immigrants were hired to paint and clean rooms at the Marriott by a subcontractor, Oscar Benitez, of Atlanta, that advertised for workers at Las Palmas grocery store in Brookline, according to Guillermo Perez of Pittsburgh’s chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. The subcontractor was hired by National Custom Inc., a Georgia-based construction company. Perez says the workers’ initial contract was for $300 a room and after 10 days of work and no pay, Antonio walked off the job. The other three other workers negotiated a new contract for $12 and hour and were paid for 30 hours, but then were not paid for an additional seven days they worked.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Posted By on Mon, Jan 15, 2018 at 3:53 PM

click to enlarge Activists call for continuing protests and boycott of Pizza Milano after alleged assault
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Protesters outside Pizza Milano in Uptown on Jan. 15
On Jan. 12, an employee at the Uptown pizza restaurant, Pizza Milano, was caught on video apparently headbutting a woman and tackling her to the ground. The employee, Mahmut Yilmaz, has been charged with one count of aggravated assault and one charge of simple assault. The woman, Jade Martin, sustained injuries and was taken to the hospital following the incident.

The night of the incident, a video was posted on Facebook, and the video went viral. Activists, Pittsburgh residents and community leaders responded over the weekend by protesting in front of Pizza Milano. Those protests continued on Jan. 15, as a group of 50 protesters, gathered in front of Pizza Milano, calling for stronger actions against Yilmaz.

“We will not stand for any abuse of our women,” said Pittsburgh resident Nicky Jo Dawson to the crowd.

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