Submission from a participant in the Ohio Valley Environmental Resistance (PA) received on 09.02.21
Reportback on Fitz Fest 2021:
On Saturday August 28th, Pittsburgh protesters occupied the area outside the home of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in Squirrel Hill for most of the day to call for his resignation. To enjoy the gorgeous weather, the activists set up a zine and food distro in the street while playing tunes to celebrate the inability of the Pittsburgh and Allegheny County police to do anything about the occupation. Although it rained several times throughout the action, the activists where undeterred and occupied the road for seven hours until calling it a day. No arrests took place although the police did attempt to debate several protesters on why police are important. They failed miserably, and were also given a cold shoulder by the neighborhood anarchist cat, Ruby.
This action was organized in response to a recent proposal in Allegheny County to militarize guards at Allegheny County Jail, but was rooted in Fitzgerald’s indifference to public concerns over numerous issues such as air pollution, gentrification, labor rights, climate change, and mass incarceration. While county executive, Rich Fitzgerald has used his power over county departments to create a county that is favorable for multinational corporations but not the people who he is supposed to represent.
Some examples of this indifference are:
- Fitzgerald has been a vocal supporter of fracking and petrochemical industry despite strong community (and global) opposition to fossil fuel development. Some of the projects he’s supported are: fracking under Deer Lakes Park and Pittsburgh International Airport, a coal mine in South Park, and the Beaver Shell Cracker Plant. According to Marcellus Money, a website the tracks oil and gas lobbying in Pennsylvania, the natural gas industry has given $132,000 to Friends of Rich Fitzgerald, a PAC that supports Fitz and candidates he has influence over.
- Fitzgerald refuses to attend Allegheny county jail oversight board meetings or even take calls from activists regarding the conditions of Allegheny county jail. While Fitzgerald has been executive, at least 35 inmates have died and numerous protests have been held as a result of what many activists consider criminal negligence by county government.
- Fitzgerald was a major facilitator in the effort to have Amazon build their new headquarters in Pittsburgh, offering 2 billion dollars from the city, county, and public schools. Amazon has a record of stomping on the rights of workers to unionize while also running a supply chain deeply harmful to the environment.
Because Fitzgerald was re-elected without any Democratic Party opposition in 2019, he will be the county executive until 2023. After he leaves his role as County Executive, he may decide to run for higher offices with authority over more people. We cannot let that happen.
It is for these reasons that Rich Fitzgerald must resign his role as Allegheny county executive. This author also recommends that Fitzgerald’s position be abolished and replaced with three county commissioners, two of whom must not be cis-white men.
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