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Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists to offer 'Gimme a Brake (Light)' clinic

| Thursday, April 5, 2018, 5:18 p.m.

Bulbs will be free and politics optional at a brake light repair clinic the Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists of America is hosting Saturday in Allentown.

The Gimme a Brake (Light) clinic, scheduled for 2 to 6 p.m. at Hilltop United Methodist Church, aims to reduce the kind of routine police interactions that can sometimes escalate to dangerous situations, said Abby Cartus, a DSA member who organized the clinic.

“A burned-out brake light is a very common reason why people are pulled over, stopped by the police. As we know, being stopped by the police can escalate to a very dangerous or even deadly encounter,” Cartus said.

She referenced recent high-profile police shootings such as that of Philando Castile, whom a police officer shot and killed in Minnesota in 2016 after pulling Castile over. The officer said he thought Castile was reaching for a gun he had told the officer he had in the car. His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, said Castile was reaching for his identification. The officer was acquitted of second-degree manslaughter and other charges.

The Saturday clinic will be the second one the Pittsburgh chapter of the national group has held. The group, which has 510 members, changed about 20 brake lights at the first event in November, co-chairman Adam Shuck said.

The New Orleans chapter of the group created the clinics, and they have become popular with chapters in other cities, Shuck said.

“I think because it's such a tangible, concrete thing to do,” he said.

Attendees don't need to sign up for anything or listen to a pitch about the group's politics, but organizers aren't shy about sharing them with anyone who asks, Cartus said.

“It's kind of no-strings-attached,” she said. “We're open about who we are, but we're not expecting anything from the people coming.”

But the event does align with the group's ideals, Shuck said.

“Aside from cutting down on needless police interactions that can escalate really quickly, it's showing that there are things that we can take out of the market, out of the private market interaction,” he said. “We're giving our labor, giving our time for something that would otherwise require money, an appointment, time out of a working person's day; it is a way to show that we can help each other, assist each other.”

The group will have on hand several common types of bulbs and some not-so-common types, Cartus said. Organizers keep track of bulb types that are needed to improve future clinics.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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