'Civil Saturday' Demonstration Occupies Squirrel Hill Intersection

Aug 29, 2020

Hundreds of demonstrators occupied the intersection of Forbes and Murray avenues in Squirrel Hill for over two-and-a-half hours Saturday afternoon, as some speakers challenged participants to redouble their efforts on behalf of the cause.

It was the 14th weekend demonstration this summer organized by the group Black Young and Educated. The protests seek to draw attention to police violence against Black people, with special emphasis on the increased danger faced by Black women, transgender and queer people.

“You can’t pick and choose which Black lives matter,” Giuseppe, one of the event’s organizers, told demonstrators.

Woman holds "Black Lives Matter" sign at Civil Saturday demonstrator at the intersection of Forbes and Murray in Squirrel Hill. (08/29/2020)
Credit Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA News

“Black disabled lives matter! Black incarcerated lives matter! Black dreams matter!... Black queer people matter! Black bi lives matter...Black drug addicts matter!” said Treasure Palmer, one of the organization’s founders.

While earlier protests have marched through city neighborhoods, this weekend's event remained in place as police rerouted traffic around the intersection. For nearly three hours people sang, chanted and listened to poetry. But at one point, organizer Jimmy “Japan” Reise criticized the crowd for not displaying enough energy.

“You aren't here to stand and say nothing go home!” they said. “If I don’t feel some energy, some fire, some passion, I’m going to leave...This s*** is not something funny!”

Speakers told white attendees that their anti-racist work had to go beyond attending protests, or else it would be insincere and performative. While they said white voices were crucial -- because Black voices were so often ignored -- they noted that attendance at Civil Saturdays has waned throughout the summer.

“It just kind of shows that people don’t genuinely care,” said Giuseppe.

In addition to Civil Saturdays, Black Young and Educated organizers say they want to take their intersectional, anti-racist work into classrooms, and are in talks with 1Hood Media to create an after-school program.