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Pittsburgh Is Planning In The Wake Of Charlottesville

Evan Vucci
A photo of Heather Heyer, who was killed during a white nationalist rally, sits on the ground at a memorial the day her life was celebrated at the Paramount Theater, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va.

Pittsburgh government and faith leaders invited the public to events this weekend "to come together during a trying time," Mayor Bill Peduto said Wednesday.

The events are a reaction to violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., last Saturday when white supremacist groups rallied over the removal of a Confederate statue and fought with counter protesters, including Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car slammed into the crowd.

"The Confluence" airs Fridays at noon on 90.5 WESA-FM and at wesa.fm.

A violent Vice documentary of the event has since gone viral.

The Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill welcomed guests to its weekly Friday evening Shabbat service, and the city will host “Prayer for Pittsburgh, Prayer for Peace” at noon in front of the City-County Building.

Both services were announced shortly after a proposed nine-city "March on Google" was canceled. Google march organizers described themselves as new-right and disavowed the violence in Charlottesville online, saying their efforts were in support only of First Amendment rights.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazettepolice are preparing just in case the Google march carries on.

At a press briefing Downtown, city Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said a police intelligence unit had been working nonstop for nearly five days. City police also were consulting with other agencies, including the FBI, state police and other cities targeted by the March on Google, he said.
“The work will continue. It will be nonstop until such time that we can lessen the concern,” Mr. Hissrich said. Police will “take the appropriate actions” if a protest materializes, but he would not “discuss tactical operations,” he said.

Subsequent protests in Charlottesville, Philadelphia and around the country; the overnight removal of Confederate statues in Baltimore and other cities; and President Donald Trump's mixed reactions have led locals -- including Gov. Tom Wolf -- to question how Pennsylvania would react under similar stressors. 

Pittsburgh City Paper's Rebecca Addison joins to talk about her newsroom's new partnership documenting local hate crimes with national outlet ProPublica. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Julian Routh, who attended a vigil in Schenley Plaza over the weekend, and 90.5 WESA's race and equity reporter Virginia Alvino Young have more.

Later in the show:

Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials want to invest $30 million into a smart signal system that would limit drivers' time stuck indefinitely at lights with no opposing traffic. Proponents say a central traffic management center Downtown could increase efficiency, shortening commute times and sparing city dwellers from pollution created by idling cars.

The project was included in a Smart Cities Challenge grant that Pittsburgh unsuccessfully competed for in 2016. City leaders are now seeking outside funding from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, which includes Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Blazina reports their vote is expected next month.

And finally...

According to NASA, only about 80 percent of the sun will appear covered in Pittsburgh during Monday's solar eclipse, but that hasn't dampened the Steel City's party-going spirit. 

Catch up on all you need to knowwhy glasses are important, good vantage points and peak watch periods – and hear how fellow Yinzers are marking the day with Bob Batz, Jr., of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, WESA's Katie Blackley and Mike Wereschagin, who's taking a couple days away from The Caucus to chase the sun.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program. Each week, reporters, editors and storytellers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

Find more episodes of The Confluence here.

Megan Harris is a writer, editor, photographer and curator for Pittsburgh's NPR News station. She leads editorial coverage for The Confluence, 90.5 WESA's live, one-hour, daily morning news show.
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