Peaceful Protest For Police Reform Ends With Pepper Spray And Impact Munitions
A group of protesters gathered again Wednesday evening at the Point Breeze home of Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto to protest the snatching of a protest marshal off the street over the weekend by heavily armed police officers in an unmarked white van. This was the second consecutive night of protests. On Tuesday evening, an even larger crowd showed up at Peduto’s front door and spent the night until they were ordered by Police to leave at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.
A different scene unfolded Wednesday evening though, as the group was met by Peduto sitting on his front porch, waiting to talk. Peduto invited the group up to his porch to talk and protest organizers voiced their concerns and frustrations with the police response to previous protests, including the June 1 East Liberty where Pittsburgh Police unleashed tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray on the group.
Talks on the mayor’s porch didn’t go well, however, as Peduto didn’t give the response protesters were hoping for. As talks were breaking down, protesters took to megaphones and chanted, “Bill Peduto has got to go.” The mayor then got up and went into his house, closing the door behind him.
The group then took to the street in front of Peduto’s house on Hastings Street, remaining peaceful, yelling and dancing. At 10 p.m., the mood changed for the worse. Pittsburgh Police arrived in riot gear at the top of Hastings Street and declared an “unlawful assembly,” giving protesters two minutes to disperse.
After the two minutes elapsed, officers in riot gear began approaching the group of about 100 protesters, forcing them down Hastings Street. They forced the group onto Elysian Street which then connects perpendicular to Fifth Avenue. This is were protesters had nowhere to go but into Mellon Park. Police gave very unclear and conflicting orders, telling the group to first, “back up onto the sidewalk.” Then gave the orders, “do not obstruct the sidewalk. Go further into the park.” After abiding all the police orders to move into the park, police then said over the megaphone, “The park closed at 9 p.m.”
The police line started pushing, pepper spraying and shooting less-lethal projectile rounds at the crowd. A cyclist was pulled by his pants off of his bike and arrested. Screams were heard throughout the park as protesters were sprayed in the eyes and mouth at very close range with pepper spray.
Photos from the evening: