In a May 11 tweet, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he supports Pennsylvania legalizing recreational marijuana. Peduto tweeted that he backs the drive being led by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who thinks the General Assembly should pass a bill that would regulate and tax recreational marijuana in the Commonwealth.
"I fully support Auditor General DePasquale’s Plan to legalize/regulate/tax marijuana in Pennsylvania. More importantly, so do a majority of Pennsylvanians," Peduto tweeted while linking a tweet from DePasquale.
Blak Rapp Madusa, (right) on the cover of the Aug. 9, 2017 issue of City Paper
Wilkinsburg activist and hip-hop artist Blak Rapp Madusa (real name Melanie Carter) has been a key player in Pittsburgh's Black Lives Matter movement. She has participated in many protests, rallies and artistic fundraisers to uplift the region's black community. In 2017, Madusa performed at 1Hood Day, a festival to honor the city's hip-hop talent and to give a platform to the region's performer/activists.
Now the activist is getting a different form of attention.
Widely circulated online videos show Madusa being arrested on Feb. 24 in North Versailles after she defended some children who were being kicked out of North Versailles Stadium 18 Theater.
When President Donald Trump visited an aluminum factory in the Mon Valley town of Monessen in June 2016, it was a game-changing moment. A shift occurred that put a Republican presidential candidate in a place one had never really been before: championing unionized heavy-industry workers in Pennsylvania. And this was all orchestrated by Monessen Mayor Lou Mavrakis, a Democrat, who invited Trump to campaign in the small town.
But while this visit might have helped Trump, who is now president in part due to an improbable Pennsylvania victory, Mavrakis took heat from Monessen Democrats, and they cast him out in the 2017 Democratic primary election. (The actual impact of Trump's visit is questionable. Monessen voters supported Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by a more than 12 point margin). Mavrakis lost the primary to Matt Shorraw, a grad student at California University of Pennsylvania with a progressive platform. And even though Shorraw is the presumptive mayor since his name is the only one on the general-election ballot, Mavrakis is still attempting to hold on to his seat with a write-in campaign.
Part of Mavrakis' campaign appears to be targeting voters and encouraging them to fill out absentee ballots, even if they will be in Monessen on Election Day. A PDF obtained by Pittsburgh City Paper shows a letter that was mailed out by Mavrakis’ wife Glenda Mavrakis, to a Monessen constituent, and signed by Lou Mavrakis. The letter gives step-by-step instructions on how to write-in and vote for Mavrakis, and even suggests that voters call Mavrakis, so he can pick up, stamp and mail their ballot.
Pittsburgh's recent election headlines have been swamped by the not-quite-announced, but upcoming special election for U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's (R-Upper St. Clair) vacated seat. Murphy, a pro-life champion, was caught having an affair and then allegedly asked his mistress to get an abortion. He will resign Oct. 21, after what has been a controversial and hypocrisy-filled year.
But there are still other important upcoming political races before that special election goes down, and today, Oct. 10, is the last day to register to vote on Nov. 7. Pennsylvania citizens can register online at register.votespa.com.
Video screenshot of Hardy Lloyd giving a Nazi salute at an August protest in Mount Lebanon
On Sept. 15, U.S. Marshals picked up Hardy Lloyd, a Pittsburgh man with multiple connections to white supremacy groups, and arrested him for allegedly obtaining illegal weapons, lying to his probation officer about yelling "white power" in front of protest at the office of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) and for lying about posting anti-Semitic fliers on cars in Squirrel Hill and Shadyside. He is expected to be returned to federal prison for violating his probation, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Pittsburgh City Paper first reported about some of Lloyd's recent actions in August. Lloyd, who has a history of violence and membership in white supremacist organizations, resurfaced just two days after the neo-Nazi and white supremacist events in Charlottesville, Va. One Mount Lebanon resident who asked not to be named attended the Mount Lebanon protest and told CP in August that Lloyd was wearing a camouflage hat with a double lightning-bolt symbol. This symbol is sometimes referred to as “SS bolts” and is derived from the Schutzstaffel (SS) of Nazi Germany, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s website. The ADL says SS bolts are a common symbol in white-supremacist/neo-Nazi circles.
The resident said Lloyd gave a Nazi salute yelled "white power" and walked through the crowd quickly. The resident called Lloyd's actions "disturbing."
In July, he was released from prison after serving time for online harassment, threatening police officers and contacting another white supremacist. As a condition of Lloyd's parole, he was not allowed to have contact or post content on the internet in ties to terroristic organizations like white supremacists.
Lloyd took to the Internet to comment about the story and single out those who spoke to CP. For example, Lloyd called several sources connected to the story race traitors and in response to a source who said the situation in Mt. Lebanon with Lloyd "scares you." To that Lloyd wrote: "If that scares you you'll have a heart attack with my plans for the muds and jews [sic]."
Screen shot of Lloyd's response to Pittsburgh City Paper's original story
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, U.S. Marshals "found weapons [Lloyd] isn't allowed to have, including a hatchet, a switchblade, a modified baseball bat and a martial arts 'fighting stick' he ordered online."
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Lloyd was the former Pennsylvania head of the World Church of the Creator, an organization that believes “race, not religion, is the embodiment of absolute truth and that the white race is the highest expression of culture and civilization.” The SPLC also reports that in 2002 Lloyd began “referring to himself as ‘the doctor of all hate’ and promoting himself as the leader of the so-called ‘Order of National Socialism,’ whose motto was ‘Wake up and Kill Someone.’” In 2003, Lloyd was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility and kicked out of the World Church of the Creator.
For decades Lloyd had run-ins with the law and was in and out of jail, mostly for illegally owning firearms. In 2004, Lloyd was acquitted of a murder charge, even though he admitted to shooting and killing Lori Hann, a woman he met through online dating. The jury in that case “apparently believed that Lloyd reasonably assumed that Hann was armed,” according to SPLC. The SPLC also notes four years after the shooting, Lloyd posted a video online apparently taunting the Hann family by rapping a song titled “Bitch Killer” with the lyrics, “Bitch killer, better her than me, bitch killer, fuck Hann's family, bitch killer, I know Lori's family's grievin', bitch killer, but tonight I got even.”
Lloyd was ordered to remain in custody by U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Reed Eddy. Lloyd's preliminary hearing is Sept. 19.
Mik Pappas at his July 13 campaign event in East Liberty
A February article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette portrayed Allegheny County’s Magisterial District Judges as lighthearted peacekeepers that mainly solve neighborhood disputes. Mik Pappas, a civil-rights lawyer running for judge in the county’s 31 magisterial district, feels this assessment was undervaluing a judge's importance.
Superior Court judicial nominee William Caye speaking to forum attendees
On April 5, a handful of candidates for local judgeships and Allegheny County Sheriff met with members of the Alliance for Police Accountability and general members of the public to make their cases for office. Elections like these generally get little attention, but Brandi Fisher of the APA says her group and others should follow these elections.
“We wanted to do this forum because judges are not talked about enough,” she told the 15 attendees. “This is important when we talk about reforming the criminal justice system.”
Martin Esquivel-Hernandez marching in a immigrants-rights rally on May 1
And many have responded. On July 8, more than 100 marchers will rally in support of Esquivel-Hernandez and “to oppose the politics of hate and fear,” according to the group’s Facebook page. The supporters are particularly calling out presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, from Pa., for their remarks and actions against undocumented immigrants. (Trump has called Mexican immigrants rapists, and Toomey sponsored a bill to block funding to “sanctuary cities,” or ones that refuse to communicate with the Department of Homeland Security about undocumented immigrants without warrants; the bill was blocked recently by U.S. Senate Democrats.)
In fact, Esquivel-Hernandez was picked up by immigration officers most likely because he had been cited for driving without a valid license in Mount Lebanon, a town without a sanctuary city-like policy. Lt. Duane Fisher, of the Mount Lebanon Police, says the township's general policy is to make contact with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if police “find someone who is unlicensed” and to see whether ICE has “any reason to see if [the suspect] is wanted.” Fisher says that from there, Mount Lebanon police don’t follow up on the case, and that it becomes ICE’s call. Pittsburgh, while not a sanctuary city, has a policy to not initiate contact with ICE, but will cooperate if contacted.
Immigration will be a main topic at the public march on Friday, which will coincide with the People’s Convention being held Downtown, and begins at 2:30 p.m. at 10th Street and Penn Avenue. For those wishing to provide further support to the Esquivel-Hernandez family, a website has been created (keeptheesquivelfamilytogether.com) where supporters can sign a letter to U.S. District Attorney David Hickton, who is prosecuting the case against Esquivel-Hernandez, that asks Hickton to drop the felony re-entry charges.
The groups rallying around Esquivel-Hernandez include the Pittsburgh chapter of the Labor Council for Latino Advancement, Latino outreach group Casa San José, nonprofit coalition One Pittsburgh, and social-justice-advocacy group the Thomas Merton Center.
A message in support of Esquivel-Hernandez is written on the website: “We sincerely believe Hickton is using this charge to brand Martín as a criminal deserving of jail time and immediate deportation. Martín does not belong in a prison cell. He should be back with his family and the community that loves and needs him the most.”
Esquivel-Hernandez has been in Pittsburgh for more than four years and has been involved in an assessment of Latino needs for Allegheny County; advocated for better translation services in Pittsburgh schools; and marched in immigrant-rights rallies.
The Obama administration has said that it will prosecute undocumented immigrants who threaten public safety, but the advocacy groups claim that Esquivel-Hernandez does not fit into that category given his lack of a criminal record and positive involvement in the community.
Donations can also be given on the website, or people can send a check to Pittsburgh LCLAA with “solidarity with Esquivel family” written on the memo line. Checks can be mailed to:
Attn.: Guillermo Perez
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA. 15222
on Tue, Mar 15, 2016 at 3:47 PM
On Dec. 16, 2015, a teenage boy was thrown to the ground and cuffed by Port Authority Police during an incident outside of Wood Street T Station, Downtown. City Paper happened to be on the scene and took video of the arrest shown above.
The 16-year-old boy, Mohamed Abdalla, spoke to CP on the record with his parents present the day after the arrest. He was charged with disorderly conduct. On March 11, those charges were dropped, according to Abdalla’s lawyer.
After capturing Abdalla’s arrest, CP’s video shows a Pittsburgh Police officer yelling at the reporter. This video went viral and led to investigations of the Wood Street ruckus by the Citizens Police Review Board and the Pittsburgh Police Bureau’s internal investigation office.
The ruckus that led to Abdalla’s arrest (and the arrests of four other teenage boys, all who are refugees from East
Africa) was allegedly started when one of the teenagers pressed an emergency-off button on an escalator inside Wood Street T Station. Port Authority officers confronted that boy, who allegedly resisted arrest, and then cuffed him and placed in a squad car parked on Wood Street. (Port Authority Police have recently been under fire by community groups for their conduct at Wood Street and in the shooting death of Bruce Kelley Jr. in Wilkinsburg, in January.)
Abdalla told CP that he was friends with the first boy arrested and he was present when that boy was confronted by officers. Abdalla exited the T station and watched from a crosswalk on Wood Street as the officers placed the boy in the car. AplainclothesPort Authority officer then looked at Abdalla and called out, “Do you want trouble?” and told him to back away. Abdalla was at that time 20 to 30 feet from the vehicle and a group of officers.
Abdalla didn't move; three Port Authority officers then dashed at him, tackled him to the ground and threatened to use Tasers. (Though one Taser was held in the suspect's back, it was not discharged.) The officers handcuffed Abdalla and placed him in a squad car.
Carly Rice, a law student at Duquesne Law School, recently took up Abdalla’s case and told CP that the arresting officer didn’t show up to Abdalla’s hearing. Consequently,the charges against him were dropped.
Members of Abdalla's family and community in Northview Heights believed the boys were unfairly targeted by the police officers. Of the incident, a family member in December asked: “Why did the police only pick these gentlemen when they are all from Africa? When something happened like this, shouldn’t more people be arrested? Were they waiting for these kids?”
Sam Hens-Greco, attorney for three other teenagers arrested on the scene, says that none of the charges have been dropped against his clients. Haji Muzhimu, the 19-year-old adult arrested, is facing felony riot charges, as well as misdemeanors for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, among other charges. This is Muzhimu's first offense on record. The two other minors, who CP covered here, have been charged with misdemeanors for criminal trespass.
Allegheny County Council plans to vote tomorrow night on rewriting a law that requires that county-funded construction projects set aside a portion of their budgets for public artworks.
The law, instituted in 2005, has never been enforced. But the proposed rewrite would remove a requirement that directs that 2 percent of county spending on construction or improvements to county-owned properties be set aside for art.
PGH4ART, an advocacy group, is asking supporters of public art to attend the meeting and speak against rewriting the law.
An email sent to supporters yesterday by PGH4ART’s Carolyn Speranza read, in part, “The re-write eviscerates the funding mechanism for public art and guts the original law.”
Allegheny County residents or taxpayers have until 5 p.m. today to sign up to speak at tomorrow’s meeting. The online form to register to speak is here. The agenda item to cite is "9246-15 Amending 39-05-OR revising County’s Percent for Art Policy."
PGH4ART was formed in 2013 to push for enforcement of both county and City of Pittsburgh laws requiring set-asides for public art. The group argues that, in addition to aesthetic benefits, enforcement of the laws would create jobs.