The day after a peaceful Pittsburgh demonstration downtown turned chaotic, leaving a police car burned, businesses looted and damaged and a multiple reporters injured, community members met for a peaceful vigil in East Liberty around racial justice.
Hundreds of people met outside of Eastminster Presbyterian Church for the prayer vigil, as many chanted “black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe.”
“I hear the Holy Spirit saying, ‘I can’t breathe,’” Flo Demus of Cornerstone Television told the crowd. “I want you to convince the world that you are here to make a difference … your presence here makes a difference.”
Also in attendance was Mayor Bill Peduto.
“Our hearts are ripped out,” he said. “We have to utilize this moment for good … and we, I’m talking to you white people, we need to stand up for our neighbors.”
“There’s hurt,” he added, “I can feel it in the black community.”
Peduto echoed statements made by police after Saturday’s violent demonstrations, saying that the rioting and looting didn’t stem from the organizers of the event.
Bishop Loran Mann emphasized the need for love, saying, "hate has divided us for too long."
Later in the vigil, Demus asked if there were any law enforcement officers in the crowd. Officer Stephen Vinansky introduced himself and said, "As a representative of Pittsburgh police, if I or any of us have done anything to hurt you, I'm sorry."
Demus then led the crowd in saying, "Officer, as an act of our free will, we forgive you."
Meanwhile, a small group of protesters peacefully converged downtown for a second night. The demonstrators formed a line outside of the Allegheny County Courthouse, while about 40 Allegheny County sheriff's deputies stood by with plexiglass shields.
Some protesters yelled “hands up, don’t shoot.”
They marched down Grant Street, Liberty Avenue and Fifth Avenue and spray painted phrases such as "BLM" and "let him breathe" on the street in the intersection of Fifth and Grant, as well as on the street outside of the City-County Building.
Several young protesters have repeatedly asked officers to shake their hands. They refused citing policy. Now a few are fist bumping officers and the crowd cheers. Earlier I saw this exchange. The only deputy I witnessed talk to protesters pic.twitter.com/xzdc2BPB68
— Sarah Schneider (@sarahschni) May 31, 2020
As the protest continued, the crowd thinned and consisted of mostly young people. At one point, some of the young black members of the group approached the sheriff's deputies and asked to shake their hands. The officers initially refused, citing bureau policy, but later a few fist bumped the protesters.