Police Chemical Spray, Shove Protesters After Talks With Mayor Break Down

Aug 20, 2020

A second consecutive night of protesting outside of Mayor Bill Peduto's house ended in chaos as participants were corralled into Mellon Park by police, then shoved and sprayed with what appeared to be pepper spray by officers.

The night began peacefully Wednesday. Sporting a plaid shirt and baseball hat, Peduto sat on his front stoop as a security officer stood closely by, and waited for protesters to arrive. At first he faced a quiet, empty street. But before long, that street was filled with a small group of activists sporting megaphones.

“We wanted him and his neighborhood to know how we feel,” said activist Nique.

Ahead of Wednesday night's meeting, organizers said their only demand was to have 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.”

Peduto told the protesters he would listen to what they had to say and invited them onto his porch. He was asked about the East Liberty protest in June, during which police used bean-bag rounds, smoke and other crowd control tactics, in addition to arresting multiple protesters.

Protesters also asked about the arrest of a cyclist during this weekend's Civil Saturday's protest. Peduto said he was also upset about the arrest. 

However, talks quickly broke down as the conversation became heated and protesters started chanting and drowning Peduto out with sirens. The mayor then retreated inside his house. Pittsburgh City Councilmembers Bruce Kraus and Erika Strassburger were also there. Kraus went inside the house with Peduto, but Strassburger stayed outside to talk with protesters. 

Police then asked the protesters to leave. The crowd spent about an hour outside of Peduto's house, chanting. Around 10 p.m., protesters were told by a civil affairs unit to leave because police officers were on their way.

About 15 minutes later, police officers showed up and started walking toward protesters and forced the crowd toward Mellon Park. Once there, protesters were told to get off of the street and head into the park, but then were scolded for trespassing in the park after hours. The scene quickly turned chaotic as police officers pushed protesters and used what appeared to be pepper spray.

At one point, police fired an unidentified round. Pittsburgh police have previously used bean bag rounds during protests. 

Eventually, the crowd dispersed.

90.5 WESA's Sarah Kovash also contributed to this report.