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Demonstrators To Call On Peduto, City Council To Keep Pittsburgh A 'Human Rights City'

Eight state and local organizations are coming together to put the issue of human rights on the minds of Pittsburghers.

Demonstrators are expected to gather outside downtown’s City-County Building Tuesday on International Human Rights Day to call on City Council and Mayor-elect Bill Peduto to ensure Pittsburgh’s future as the 5th “Human Rights City” in the U.S.

In April 2011, City Council issued a proclamation declaring Pittsburgh to be a” Human Rights City”—meaning its citizens strive toward bettering the city’s living conditions.

Demonstrators want to remind Peduto of that declaration.

Scilla Wahrhaftig, program director for the American Friends Service Committee of Pennsylvania, said immigration, healthcare, housing and public transportation are all human rights issues that need to be addressed.

“We know that our new mayor is very interested in making Pittsburgh a welcoming city,” she said. “We’ve already talked to him about this so that immigrants are much more welcome in our city. And there are a number of things we need to be doing to make that happen.”

Human rights issues don’t just pertain to immigrants, Wahrhaftig said. They can impact long-term residents.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 28 percent of Pittsburgh’s working–age African Americans are living in poverty. That’s the highest rate among any metropolitan region in the country and 60 percent higher than the rest of the nation.

“Nobody in this country, with the money that we have and the wealth that we have, should in fact be going homeless or not have enough food to eat,” she said.

Wahrhaftig said being a “Human Rights City” sets a model for the rest of the world, but Pittsburgh has a long way to go.

“It’s a way of saying, ‘look, we are part of a world community of cities that are working to make our city a much better place to live,’” she said. “And not only are we going to be calling on City Council and the mayor, but we’re also going to be working ourselves to do what we can.”

The “Human Rights not Corporate Rights” rally begins at 4:30 p.m.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."