Hundreds of activists, community organizers and progressive elected officials from around the country are meeting in Pittsburgh this weekend.
The two conventions, aimed at social and economic progress, will take on new perspectives in the wake of the police shooting deaths of two black men in Minnesota and Louisiana.
Pittsburgh Bureau of Police officials also said Friday that officers will have a heightened awareness of safety in the wake of Thursday night's shooting in Dallas, Texas that killed five police officers and injured seven more.
The Center for Popular Democracy, a national nonprofit that fights for racial equality, worker and immigrant rights, is hosting its first People’s Convention. It’s taking place in Pittsburgh, partly because of the city’s labor roots, location and number of organizations willing to partner, organizers said.
The CPD’s Co-Executive Director Andrew Friedman said attendees are on the front lines of groups demanding higher wages, affordable housing and racial equality. The goal is to build a community of action and share best practices for inciting change.
“I think there’s a huge value in folks realizing they’re not fighting alone,” Friedman said, “and learning about other campaigns in other parts of the country, and sharing strategies that are proving effective.”
Friedman said the Convention will focus on new conversations in light of the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, two black men shot by police this week.
“I think it’s going to have a huge influence, I think folks are coming to the convention with broken hearts and in very low spirits,” Friedman said. “I think folks are in mourning and in shock frankly from these two very painful videos that have surfaced.”
Across the street from the People’s Convention, the annual Local Progress Convening, a gathering of 100 elected officials from across the country, is also taking place this weekend. The convening is another event headed by the CPD, hosted by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and though separate from the People’s Convention, will have some coinciding events.
“In order to get any change accomplished, you need allies on the inside that are willing and able to move the levers of governmental power,” said Convening Co-Director Ady Barkan. “And you need advocates and community members and organized institutions on the outside pushing for those changes.”
Barkan said representatives from each gathering will speak at one another’s conventions.
Friedman said gun violence and opportunities for the African American community will now have a larger focus on the conference’s agenda. He said attendees include activists who focus on ending police violence in Minneapolis – the site of one of the recent shootings.
One of the conference’s events is a march through Pittsburgh protesting inequality in immigration policies, environmental care and workers’ wages.
Organizers said another stop at the courthouse has been added to the march to honor Black Lives Matter and discuss the week’s news.