Protesters are expected to march through Mayor Bill Peduto’s Point Breeze neighborhood Wednesday evening for the third time this week. Organizers say their only demand is a conversation with the mayor about the Black Lives Matter movement, something activist Lorenzo Rulli said he has been requesting for months.
“I’ve continued to reach out. Others have continued to reach out,” said Rulli. “He doesn’t think that my Black opinion matters.”
Hundreds marched from the East Liberty Target to Peduto’s home Tuesday evening to call for the mayor to speak about his messaging surrounding the weekend arrest of a bike marshal at a protest in Oakland. City of Pittsburgh plainclothes officers in an unmarked white van arrested Matthew Cartier for trying to block traffic from entering the route of a march that had been organized by Black Young and Educated.
On Tuesday evening, protesters stood outside the mayor’s home for hours, chanting the names of Black people killed in police custody and calling for Peduto to come outside. Music and dancing went on through the early hours of the night. Most of the lights inside Peduto’s home remained unlit for the time WESA was present.
A few protesters remained Wednesday morning still waiting to speak with Mayor Peduto, according to Rulli. Police arrived just before 10 a.m. Wednesday to call for the remaining protesters to disperse, according to public safety officials.
Peduto arrived back at home shortly thereafter. No conversation was held between the mayor and the protesters. Calls for Peduto to address protesters have increased in the days since Pittsburgh Police arrested Cartier at Saturday's protest.
Peduto tweeted late Saturday night that Cartier’s arrest was made by Pittsburgh Police in a transit unit. He added that constitutional rights “have restrictions,” and while the right to assemble was guaranteed, “the right to shut down public streets is a privilege ... sanctioned by laws and codes” on which the city worked with the ACLU & a citizen review board. Responding to the tweet, Vic Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania said the group, “has never suggested that the snatch-and-stash arrest of a peaceful demonstrator is ever acceptable.”
“When he talks about privileges for Black protests, I want to talk about how he feels we have privileges when we’re fighting against injustices against all Black and brown people. It’s inappropriate,” Rulli said.
Peduto’s evolving position on the arrest is something Rulli would like to talk about one-on-one.
“So I want to know what his position is, truly, on Black Lives Matter,” Rulli said. “And what Black liberation looks like to him.”
In a statement about the Tuesday night protest, Mayor Peduto said he supports Black Lives Matter, but that the late night noise crossed a line.
“What I cannot defend is any neighborhood in our city — and their residents and families — being disturbed through the night and morning, and a peaceful protest devolving into unacceptable conduct in which residents are being harassed and threatened. This crosses a line that cannot be allowed to continue, causing those committing crimes against residents to face possible legal consequences for their actions. Using protests to create conflict and division, as some are doing, only impacts the ability of others to exercise their constitutional rights safely,” the statement reads.
Rulli feels Peduto has painted an unfair picture of Tuesday night’s protest which though loud, was not threatening. He said he spoke to some neighbors who were sympathetic to the cause of the protesters. WESA witnessed one such conversation.
“Today he centered white people when he made a statement and said we disturbed his neighbors,” he said. “Yes, we made noise. Yes, we disturbed the peace. But we are protesting so that he [Peduto] will have a conversation with a Black man who wants to address the injustices against him and his people. That’s it.”
1Hood Media’s Miracle Jones echoed that sentiment Wednesday afternoon on Twitter.
“All @billpeduto could have done was come home and talked to folks,” the tweet reads. She noted there hasn’t been a public meeting called with regard to the Black Lives Matter protests or a communications team organized to field calls from protesters. ”This could all be so simple, but he refuses to communicate.”
“I don’t think that it’s a problem for a mayor to say that ‘I didn’t know any better.’ … But it is so very important as a white man who says he supports Black Lives Matter to address that,” Rulli said. “Black liberation is liberation for everyone.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, a spokesman for Peduto said he was unaware of any official requests for a meeting between activists and the mayor. He had not confirmed information about those requests prior to publishing.
This post will be updated upon WESA receiving additional response from the city.