Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Update 004 -- G-20 Protest Permits Lawsuit -- Federal Court Hearing

[These are my raw notes from the courtroom; they will often consist or keywords and phrases and are not a comprehensive log or transcript.]

3:08 PM Court back in Session.

Officer Christie Gasiorowski back on stand, this time as witness for the city. Questioning by City Assistant City Solicitor Michael Kennedy.
Establishes that -- while approved -- the permit for an overnight camping event this year was not actually issued.

Q: what steps taken to accommodate Thomas Merton Center march? A: Wrote up alternative routes, should have gotten them today.
Mapped route from 7th St Bridge to Buncher lot. Distance from Fifth & Craft to Buncher lot along her proposed routing is 3.8 miles. (Note: that appears to involve crossing over to the North Shore and back.)

Testifies it's very labor intensive to provide police presence for these events.

Asks about plaintiff request to stop and rally at 7th Street Bridge. She testifies that river walk on North Shore is great location providing sight and sound access to convention center.
She has concerns about stop and rally at bridge. Exit only at either end. Says "if a molotov cocktail were to go off" there could be a panic and stampede. Doesn't think city could provide for safety if they stopped and rallied on the bridge.

3:18 PM cross-examination by Vic Walczak of the ACLU.

On the overnight permit -- Walczak : never used because they didn't pay security fee? Officer acknowledges, but says the permit was never approved because it was not signed.
Walczak: There's a piece of paper that was signed that was sent out to somebody. Says this was not supplied to us by the city -- "We got it from them (the applicants), your honor."

Asks about her distance calculations. Walczak say it appears Craft and Fifth to City County Building is about 1.9 miles. How did you get to the 7th Street Bridge? .7 miles to bridge? 0.4 to cross pan of bridge/ridge and .4 back, not counting distance to cover on the North Side, right? A: Possibly.

Walczak: You're suggesting it's too labor intensive for the city to provide for them to stop on the 7th Street Bridge? A: That's one of the issues we have, yes.

Q: The city's going to provide security for the march (the city suggests) to the North Side? A: Correct.
If the Merton Center has 3,000 to 5,000 people, do you believe the river walk would provide space for that many people. A: Hasn't evaluated, believes it can.
Walczak: If people have to spread out over 4 to 5 blocks on river walk by Alcoa, that would require police security, would it not. People could jump in river there, could they not? A: Acknowledges they could.


Walczak asks -- no matter where march ends up, it will require police presence to keep people out of harm's way? Officer Gasiorowski: correct.

Walczak: the concern is about safety of the demonstrators, not of the G-20 Summit correct? Officer: that's correct. But she says Secret Service has some concerns about timing in relation to First Lady's visit to the Warhol.

Walczak: Asks about people filling bridges to watch fireworks. Officer Gasiorowski acknowledges they may. Appears to say that city may not encourage (I could not hear her answer clearly).


The attorney for the Secret Service -- Albert W. Schollaert of the U.S. Attorney's Office - is now questioning Officer Gasiorowski.
Going over Google maps estimates of distances.

3:43 PM : Judge Lancaster questions officer about why she's concerned people may fall off the bridge. She answers that if something happens, she doesn't think the two ends of the bridge would accommodate a mad rush of people.
Officer Gasiorowski's testimony has ended.

3:44 PM Gregory Daley is called as a witness for the city. Supervisor for City Dept of Public Works.
Schenley Park comes within his area of responsibility for clean up. Describes the 2007 occasion when a group was allowed to camp there overnight. Says those organizers never cleaned up and city workers had to work all day to clean up the area and haul away debris.

3:53 Pittsburgh Police Assistant Chief William Bochter takes the stand as a witness for the city. Oversees the operations branch. He's the co-chair of the civil disturbance sub-committee for the G-20.

City Assistant City Solicitor Michael Kennedy is asking questions.

Q: What's manpower looking like: A: "we are stretched very thin"... "to the limits right now".

Q: A: I have a lot of issues with a rally of 3 to 5,000 people taking place on any bridge in the city, with our "manpower problems". Corrects self to "shortfalls".
Acknowledges most protesters will protest peacefully. Says they are very concerned about those who may intend to cause trouble. Says there have been cases elsewhere where people climb bridge superstructures. Concerned about safety of trying to get to them with crowds of thousands. If emergency, there is no access for emergency vehicles. Says when they to disperse a crowd, they always give multiple routes for people to disperse. Chief Bochter If they have to disperse a crowd, there's only one route.

Chief Bochter says having to man another site in addition to strip district lot and north shore would spread them thin.

Under questioning, says he's concerned about bad people infiltrate peaceful groups, with a different message -- one of violence.

4:00 PM Cross examination by Vic Walczak of ACLU.

Chief Bochter says there will, in fact, be a police presence on every bridge in Pittsburgh during the G-20 summit.

Walczak asks about differences in police approach between a march across the bridge and a stop and rally on the bridge.
Chief Bochter says they would keep lanes open during a march, but would not be able to do so in a rally.

4:05 PM Chief Bochter has ended. City Assistant City Solicitor Michael Kennedy says the city rests.

Walczak says he'd like to raise one point of information about the Secret Service representation of distances involved in varous routes.

Judge Lancaster has questions for city's attorneys.
-What's basis for denying use of Point State Park Sunday evening (before closing), Monday, and Tuesday? City attorney answers that city crew needs wiggle room in time in case of bad weather. Says there are dangers in relying on the best case scenario, and then having the worst case arrive.

Judge: I would say that if next week our biggest problem is a schedule conflict between CodePink and the Junior Great Race, we should be thankful.

Judge to protesters attorneys: What is city's alternative routes an affront to 1st amendment rights?

Lobel: Says question isn't whether city locations "might be okay", the real question is why marching across the bridge is acceptable, but a brief rally there is not.
As for someone jumping off or climbing bridge, if you used that basis -- (that such a thing *might* happen) -- you could preclude *anything* from being granted.

Judge: the city has offered CodePink to use Point Park Tuesday and Wednesday, sharing on Wednesday with Ferlo's group? Answer establishes they don't want to get swallowed up by someone else's event.
Attorneys for protesters say they believe they've proven there was clear favoritism and bias in granting of permits. Approving a large event for Ferlo on Wednesday, and not a smaller group on Monday and Tuesday.

Judge Lancaster: says he will place his ruling on record at 10 AM tomorrow.

[I'm posting this from home this evening, but I believe the hearing concluded at about twenty minutes after 4.]

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