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Protesters leave signs outside Ravenstahl's home, hold 'sleep-in' at office

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Thursday, July 18, 2013, 11:09 a.m.
 

Protesters concerned about race relations in Pittsburgh camped outside Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office overnight, and, when he failed to materialize by morning, they headed to his house.

No luck there, either.

“He is our elected official, and we believe ... that he has a responsibility to us regardless of what's going on in his particular tenure as mayor,” said Bekezela Mguni, who helped organize the protest with the group Pittsburgh for Trayvon. Ravenstahl is not running for re-election.

The protest grew from the acquittal of George Zimmerman this week in Florida on charges he murdered Trayvon Martin, 17. The verdict prompted protests across the country, including one scheduled for Saturday at the Federal Building, Downtown.

Pittsburgh for Trayvon issued a list of 14 demands to City Council President Darlene Harris and Democratic mayoral nominee Bill Peduto on Wednesday. The demands include more local input in economic development projects in black neighborhoods and an investigation of “systemic criminalization, abduction, abuse and murder of black people.”

When Ravenstahl declined through an aide to meet with them, they camped outside his office.

Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss said police worked shifts through the night to keep an eye on the group.

“There were no arrests,” he said. “Everybody was orderly. Everything was fine.”

After leaving about 6:30 a.m., they headed to Ravenstahl's Fineview home, where they placed signs listing their demands in his yard near the driveway. The signs were reported to police at 11 a.m.

“We made sure there was a copy at his door,” Mguni said. “We just wanted to make sure this was shared with him. We were being courteous.”

Police stepped up patrols around Ravenstahl's house, police spokeswoman Diane Richard said.

In a statement emailed to reporters, Ravenstahl called this “a time of intense reflection in America” and said he's “heard and read (protesters') concerns.”

Ravenstahl said his administration has addressed some of the points they raised, including increasing economic development and access to college and “work(ing) with law enforcement to decrease crime across the city.”

“I wholeheartedly believe in the right to peaceful assembly, however, that does not give anyone the right to damage private property and to frighten people's young children,” Ravenstahl said. Ravenstahl has a son, Cooper, 4.

Ravenstahl's spokeswoman said he does not plan to press charges against the group.

Staff writer Aaron Aupperlee contributed to this report. Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or mwereschagin@tribweb.com.

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