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Protesters Continue Calls To Defund Police During 'Civil Saturdays'

Sarah Boden
90.5 WESA
Protesters assemble at the intersection of Penn Avenue and 27th Street in the Strip District on Saturday, July 11, 2020.

For the sixth week, Pittsburghers marched through the city for Civil Saturdays to protest police brutality.

The weekly event is organized by Young, Black and Educated. While participants in past Civil Saturdays demonstrations had been asked to wear red and black, many wore green -- one of the colors featured on the Pan African flag. 

Protesters continued growing calls to defund police and decried gentrification, highlighting the latter by walking through the Strip District and Lawrenceville. 

With the march starting outside the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office, the large group took up the entire street, filling up to three blocks at one point. Amid the chanting and calls for action, participants also played drums.

Members of Young, Black and Educated accused elected officials of "being lazy." Nick Anglin, one of the group's organizers told marchers, "We want change. We want to better our people. We want a better America." He later added that if elected officials don't do more, additional people will be murdered, saying, "The police are supposed to police us, but who are policing them?"

Members of the protests also observed a moment of silence for Antwon Rose, an unarmed black teenager who was killed by police in East Pittsburgh in 2018. His birthday is Sunday. He would have been 20 years old. 

"There is no neutrality...stand up for black lives. Stand up for us," said Auja Diggs, the volunteer and community outreach coordinator for Black, Young and Educated.

As the group made its way down Penn Avenue, police blocked the entrances to bridges. 

The demonstration was without physical conforntation, despite a brief period of tension with police. At one point, protesters started moving toward the 40th Street Bridge and police also moved toward the protesters. Some demonstrators yelled at police, saying things like, "turn in your badge," and "quit your job!"

Eventually the group headed back toward the Strip District. There was a short arguement between a few protesters and some patio diners of Senti Resturant and Wine Bar. It's unclear how the confortation started.

Upon returning to the medical examiner's office, roughly four hours after the march began, organizers encouraged those who could to head over to Freedome Corner in the Hill District. 

At the public memorial honoring the Civil Rights Movement in Pittsburgh, the mother of a late Duquense University student has been holding a hunger strike for more than a week. Police ruled that Dannielle Brown's son Marquis died by suicide. But Brown says the circumstances around Marquis's death are suspicous. 

Before dispersing, marchers were told they had to continue to be vocal and active in their work against white supremecy and liberation.

"If you say Black Lives Matter, don't f*cking whisper," said protester Lorenzo Rulli.

90.5 WESA's Sarah Kovash contributed to this report. 

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio. As a contributor to the NPR-Kaiser Health News Member Station Reporting Project on Health Care in the States, Sarah's print and audio reporting frequently appears on NPR and KFF Health News.