ACLU settles 2 more Pittsburgh G20 suits for $215K

The city of Pittsburgh will pay $215,000 to settle two lawsuits related to its response to protesters at the Group of 20 economic summit in September 2009.

Solicitor Dan Regan earlier this year said the city planned to settle one of the lawsuits for $143,000, which the ACLU confirmed Wednesday.

The Seeds of Peace Collective, a Montana group that arrived to feed protesters, and Three Rivers Climate Convergence, a local activist group, claimed city police, parks officials and others conspired to harass them by delaying or denying permits to peaceably assemble, and by unfairly confiscating tents and other equipment.

Regan said the city paid $1.5 million for a $10 million policy to cover any claims arising from the G20 summit. “Settling these claims is a business decision by the city and its insurance carrier, and they’re prudent business decisions,” he said. The city admitted no liability and all the claims are being paid out of the policy, Regan said.

“We knew claims would arise out of this even, that’s why we secured insurance coverage,” Regan said.

The second settlement announced Wednesday, for $72,000, ends a lawsuit brought by Karen Piper, a visiting professor who was studying — but not involved in — protests when her hearing was allegedly damaged by a Long Range Acoustic Device that police used to loudly broadcast orders and loud siren-like tones meant to disperse the protesters.

Piper, a University of Missouri English professor, was visiting Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University so she could research whether protesters have any effect on the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

“I am grateful that my case will serve as a deterrent to future users of the LRAD,” Piper said. “The LRAD should have no place on our American streets.”

But The Associated Press reported last year that more U.S. police and emergency-response agencies are using the LRAD devices because they’ve proved effective for crowd control during protests and other events.

The leading manufacturer, LRAD Corp. of San Diego, has said the devices were developed as a nonlethal option for military use — though they’re not meant to be a weapon, just a way of loudly and clearly broadcasting information, instructions and warnings over long distances.

Piper told the AP last year that it is now hard for her to hear people speaking in restaurants or other environments where there is background noise. She sued only the city, not LRAD.

The city has previously paid $88,000 to settle 11 wrongful arrest claims by those who claim they were swept up in police efforts to arrest unruly G20 protesters. Still pending in federal court are the claims of 13 others who rejected that settlement.