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Peaceful ‘Saturday Sit-In’ Starts In Bakery Square, Ends At Centre And Negley Avenues

Around 1,000 people staged a sit-in at Bakery Square in Pittsburgh’s East End Saturday to protest police violence against black Americans. 

 

The crowd gathered inside the Bakery Square parking lot, then took over a section of Penn Avenue for about two hours, much of the time seated on the hot asphalt listening to speakers. 

 

They then marched to East Liberty and gathered at Center and Negley avenues, where days earlier, police fired tear gas into a crowd of protest. But this protest remained peaceful, and the police kept their distance. 

 

The crowd held an 8-minute-and-46-second moment of silence, to commemorate the amount of time that a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on the neck of 49-year-old George Floyd, asphyxiating him. Around 6 p.m., the march leaders told the crowd to leave, which they did. 

 

The sit-in was organized by several young Pittsburghers, calling themselves Black, Young and Educated (BYE). It was the first time any had ever organized a protest of this kind. 

 

Nicholas Anglin, 18, said he helped organize the sit-in to bring attention to police "use-of-force" laws, which have been used to shield officers from prosecution or conviction in the event that they shoot someone. 

 

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Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
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“It’s what allowed Michael Rosfeld to be acquitted of all charges” he said, referring to the East Pittsburgh Police officer who was charged but ultimately acquitted for killing Pittsburgh-area teenager Antwon Rose II in June 2018. “[The law] basically says if a police officer believes someone is a threat they can use lethal force…we want to change that. It’s very subjective—we want it to be objective so something like that can never happen again.”

 

Treasure Palmer, 18, another organizer, said police killings of unarmed African Americans pushed her to action. 

 

“It affects you in everyday life, to leave the house, to know this can be you, your brother, this could be your dad—anyone you know, this could be your friend,” she said. “I feel like I have to do something about it.” 

 

A protesters’ security detail showed up at one point, surrounding the speakers. The group wore black, most with masks covering their face. One held a long gun by his side. “They are here to protect us,” one of the speakers told the multi-racial crowd. 

 

Michelle Harris, of Center Township, Beaver County, made the drive to Pittsburgh to attend the rally, with her two sons, Rashid, 11, and Landon, 16. She said she lives in a largely white suburb, but wanted to expose her sons to issues young African-American men must deal with when interacting with law enforcement. 

 

“When they walk out the door, they’re just looked at as two young black men,” Harris said. “I just think it’s important for them to see what’s going on.” 

 

She said she’s instructed her sons on how to act if they confront police. “‘This is how you act, this is what you do.’ We’ve raised them to this point like that,” she said. 

 

Harris didn’t participate in the protests after the death of Antwon Rose. But she came out for her first ever protest Saturday. She said,“We all have to make sure our voices are heard.”