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Protesters March From Squirrel Hill To Oakland on Saturday, Demand Change To PA's Use Of Force Law

Hundreds gathered in Squirrel Hill this afternoon for “Civil Saturday,” a weekly demonstration begun by Black, Young & Educated, a Pittsburgh group created in 2019 by five teenagers. Participants were asked to wear black as a tribute to the Pan-African flag; adopted in 1920, the red, black, and green flag represents "black freedom." 

Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA

Gathered at the intersection of Forbes and Murray Avenues, organizers called to amend “Pennsylvania 508,” the section of Title 18 in the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes that governs use of force. They said the justification for use of force is subjective and should be changed to “without reasonable doubt.”

The crowd marched down Forbes Avenue toward Oakland chanting “Black lives, they matter here,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Neighbors waved from their porches and some joined the blocks-long column. They began to clap and take up the chant, “Defund the police” and “Silence is violence.”

They filled an intersection at the corner of Carnegie Mellon University’s campus and a speaker asked, “What are you going to do when you leave here?” She urged people to talk to their friends and their families, to donate, and said that getting into the streets to protest is only the first step toward real change.

“This is not a trend, something cool you do with your friends,” another said. “This is my life.”

As they moved toward Oakland, the crowd yelled “Turn up, turn down, we do this for Antwon.” Antwon Rose, a black 17-year-old, was fatally shot by a white police officer in East Pittsburgh in 2018. The acquittal of the former officer who killed Rose led to calls for police reform as well as changes to the state’s use of force law. Much of that legislation languished in Harrisburg until last week, when members of the Legislative Black Caucus took the floor of the Pennsylvania House and demanded that 19 bills be brought for consideration.

As marchers moved from Oakland to Shadyside, organizers of Saturday’s action continued to call for an amendment to the state’s use of force bill.

Also on Saturday, a group of about 100 people gathered for a march in Homewood, while more converged downtown at a protest organized by activist group Pittsburgh, I Can’t Breathe.

Protests have been held in the Pittsburgh area since May 30

Sarah Schneider and Katie Blackley contributed to this report. 

Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA and 91.3 WYEP, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer and host of our Good Question! series and podcast. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community.