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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hundreds attend Downtown rally to support labor, protest gas drilling

As many as 500 protesters filled Downtown sidewalks and, briefly, office lobbies and streets, Monday afternoon for a "We Are One" labor rally.

The Downtown event seeking support for a number of causes was timed to mark the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., who was killed in Memphis while supporting a sanitation workers strike there.

Monday's demonstration was among hundreds of such "We Are One" rallies that were held in all 50 states. The rallies and 175 teach-ins were organized largely to protest the Republican-led efforts in Wisconsin and Ohio to curb bargaining for public employees.

The issues energizing demonstrators in Pittsburgh covered a lot of ground, from a call for a state severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production, to restoration of cuts to Port Authority transit service, opposition to education cuts in Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget, and, ultimately, to the "war" being waged against unions and workers that started in Wisconsin.

As disparate as it seemed, 10 speakers who ranged from labor leaders, to a University of Pittsburgh student, to an environmentalist, tried to tie them together, arguing that it all came down to government favoring corporate interests ahead of regular working people.

"They started this war -- the corporations, the Republicans," Jack Shea, Allegheny County Labor Council president, told the crowd, which roared in approval when he added: "We will not turn the other cheek."

The event began in front of EQT Plaza in the 600 block of Liberty Avenue, a location chosen because it's the headquarters for EQT Corp., one of the state's most active Marcellus Shale natural gas drillers.

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