By: KDKA-TV News Staff
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Ahead of a planned protest over Port Authority barring Black Lives Matter masks, Port Authority’s CEO says the uniform policy doesn’t target any “specific message, group or ideology.”
Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman said in a statement Wednesday morning that the uniform policy has prohibited wearing political or social justice messages since the 70s, and now the policy has been updated to include face coverings.
"Port Authority unequivocally believes that Black lives matter" https://t.co/luQ63QfW7f
— Port Authority PGH (@PGHtransit) September 2, 2020
This means masks with messages — like Black Lives Matter — aren’t allowed.
But the policy “isn’t directed at Black Lives Matter or any other specific message, group or ideology,” Kelleman says.
“I want to be absolutely clear: Port Authority unequivocally believes that Black lives matter,” her statement reads.
Her statement explains private businesses can allow certain messages and ban others, but public agencies like the Port Authority are prohibited by federal law by doing the same.
“If Port Authority allows uniforms to be used as a message board for some political or social protest topics, we must then allow all messages on that topic, including those that could disrupt Port Authority’s ability to deliver public transit service in a safe and efficient manner and cause harm to our employees, customers and communities,” she says.
“In legal terms,” the authority’s viewpoint is “neutral.”
This comes as a protest is planed for Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. on Sixth Avenue.
LET PORT AUTHORITY KNOW THAT BLACK LIVES MATTER!
📣Protest planned for Wed. 9/2, 4pm at 345 6th St.
Local transit workers are being punished for wearing BLM masks. Support them in their demand that Port Authority change their dress code to support black lives.
Spread the word! pic.twitter.com/2CfgQdnwEX
— PGHers for Public Transit (@Pgh4PubTransit) August 31, 2020
A tweet about the protest says the demonstration will support Port Authority workers who want the dress code changed to support Black lives.
At the start of August, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local-85 said Port Authority violated free speech rights of workers with its amended uniform policy. It also said two drivers were disciplined for wearing Black Lives Matter face masks.
Kellerman’s statement ends with this: “In an effort to further address this issue, Port Authority is working with our uniform supplier to design and create Port Authority face coverings that will be required to be worn by all employees while on duty.”
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