Watching Our Backs, But on How Many Fronts? | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Watching Our Backs, But on How Many Fronts?

Planned protests at the July 11 Major League Baseball All-Star Game ... like the one against sweatshop-produced souvenir shirts (see page XX) ... are low on the long list of contingencies for which law enforcement officials are preparing. Fifty-four local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are coming together to keep fans, players and anyone else in the area safe for All-Star week.


"Our responsibilities go above lawful protest groups," says Jeff Killeen, supervisory special agent with the Pittsburgh FBI office. He won't say just what those responsibilities are, of course: "It wouldn't be appropriate." But the varied groups will be on the lookout for domestic or international bad guys who want to use the spotlight on Pittsburgh as a spotlight to "further their cause."


Mike Healey, Downtown lawyer for many a local protester, says he and ACLU Legal Director Vic Walczak "have been meeting with the city concerning these demonstrations" and the city's response. "The city doesn't concern us," Healey says. "It's the other agencies that concern us ... mostly on First Amendment issues."


The training city police officers are receiving in preparation for July 11 has already had one small effect on civil liberties: It drew away officers from a June 28 hearing for Carole Wiedmann, who was arrested Aug. 20 at an Oakland protest against military recruiting. Wiedmann's hearing, for "failure to disperse" from in front of a police dog in time to avoid a bite attempt, was postponed once again. Healey finds the cause "ironic."


The list of agencies involved on July 11 ranges from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security ... which apparently has better things to do than return phone calls from the press ... to police departments as far-flung as Erie and Beaver County. It includes the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which collects and interprets mapping data from space for the Department of Defense as well as civilian groups.


Presumably, such an agency will not be worried about anti-sweatshop protesters. But the game may look better from up there.

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By Mars Johnson