'Civil Saturdays' End After 16 Weeks, But Organizers Say The Fight Continues

Sep 13, 2020

Cheers, chants and tears filled the streets of Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhoods Saturday as the group Black, Young and Educated made their final collective in-person push for changes to Pennsylvania’s police use of force law.

For 16 weeks, BYE has organized what it calls “Civil Saturdays,” demonstrations with hundreds of activists seeking legislative and societal change of police brutality against Black people. 

 

 

“I feel very accomplished,” said BYE co-founder Treasure Palmer. “I feel like we did a lot this summer. I feel like we helped to keep the movement going.”

 

The Saturday demonstration in Bakery Square was a return to the location of the group’s first gathering on June 6. Protesters filled the intersection of Penn Avenue and Bakery Square Boulevard as Palmer introduced herself and the now well-known mission: amend Section 508 of the state criminal code. 

Two demonstrators hold signs in support of Black lives, including people with special needs. Organizers have emphasized the need for the movement to be inclusive.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

 

Reflecting on the past four months, Palmer said BYE has heard from several legislators who say they’ve “never received so many emails” about the state statute.

 

“I feel like we’ve made an impact and I think we’ve really gotten our message out there,” Palmer said. “And I feel like people are receiving it and trying to make the strides to move forward.”

 

BYE organizers have asked participants in each Civil Saturdays to wear a certain color, each representing a theme or topic to which they’d like to bring more awareness. The first few weeks were black, red and green, the colors of the pan-African flag, also known as the Black liberation flag. This weekend’s color was orange for gun-violence awareness.

 

Gun violence is a problem in many Black communities, BYE co-founder Nick Anglin told the crowd as it gathered briefly in East Liberty. But “police violence is gun violence,” as well, he said.

 

“We need to end police brutality, we need to increase police accountability and that’s exactly why we need to amend Pa. section 508,” Anglin said. 

 

Demonstrators march down Penn Avenue on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

 

Speakers primarily addressed the police use of force law, but others brought awareness to other issues of what they called inequality happening in the city. Dakota Castro-Jarrett, a senior at Taylor Allderdice High School and member of the Stop the Station Coalition, spoke about the city possibly relocating the Police Zone 5 sub-station back to East Liberty. The Coalition says the precinct’s presence will be dangerous for minority communities.

As the crowd passed through Garfield, Friendship and Shadyside, speakers emphasized the need for the movement for equality to continue -- and especially for white people to engage and work to dismantle racism.

At the intersection of Fifth Avenue and S. Negley Avenue, the crowd grew silent as a poem was read. “I Am Not What You Think” was penned by Antwon Rose Jr., the Black teenager shot by a white East Pittsburgh police officer in 2018. Rose was shot three times in the back after fleeing a vehicle that had been stopped because it was suspected of being involved in a drive-by shooting. The officer was acquitted on all charges, including first-degree murder.

“I am not what you think / I am confused and afraid / I wonder what path I will take / I hear that there’s only two ways out / I see mothers bury their sons / I want my mom to never feel that pain / I am confused and afraid.”

As the group looped back to Mellon Park and Bakery Square, several neighbors waved and cheered out of their windows. 

Treasure Palmer said the Saturday demonstration was the group’s last, but that they’d participate with other protests throughout the city going forward. BYE organizers are all in their late teens or early twenties, and Palmer said they need a break to recharge. Plus, many are returning to school shortly. Palmer, with an eye toward building social justice movements in the future, plans to attend community college to study business and art history.