Protesters Take To Downtown, Challenging New City Guidelines On Demonstrations

Jul 27, 2018

Protesters marched Downtown Friday, while criticizing city leaders for new protest policies that limit their abilities to block certain roads. 

Activists first gathered outside of the Allegheny County Courthouse Friday before noon for a planned rally that was supposed to correspond with a preliminary hearing for East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld, who is charged in the death of 17-year-old Antwon Rose. Earlier this week, Rosfeld waived his hearing.

However, the focus moved to new policies announced Thursday for protesting in the city. 

While affirming that the city “completely supports the right of people to protest,"  the policy identifies numerous intersections and roadways where unpermitted protests will not be allowed to block traffic.

This map shows most of the roadways and intersections designated red or yellow zones by the city. It does not show school zones, tunnels and bridges and "special events and their entry and exit routes," which are also included in the new policy. 

Protesters emphasized Friday that they would not be stifled by the new guildelines. Nicky Jo Dawson said on a megaphone, "That was cute ... These guidelines are coming down from the same people who oppress us. So while we’re out here fighting against this oppression, you want to further oppress us by telling us where we can protest, how we can protest.”

"We’ll continue to go wherever the hell we want to go," Dawson asserted.

"It feels like the new policy was there to confine us to a First Amendment right that fits them," added Christian Carter, a protest leader. "They're basically telling us that [we can't go] anywhere that would actually disrupt something and actually make a point."

"We never tell our plans ahead of time," he said when asked whether the city's policy would have any effect on their plans. "I don't know where we are going to be. But we're going to be somewhere."

One protester also lauded Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, calling him a model for how to change the role of district attorney in Pittsburgh. Protesters have been critical of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala in the past.

On Friday, a small group delivered a list of demands to Zappala's office, according to Jordan Malloy, who was part of the group. A protestor read the letter outlining those demands during a subsequent rally outside the Allegheny County Courthouse, where the DA's office is located.

The protestor said the East Pittsburgh officer who shot Rose, Michael Rosfeld, should be fired and in jail, rather than on administrative leave and house arrest. She also said Judge Jeffrey Manning should be removed from overseeing the case because he is close friends with Rosfeld’s attorney, Patrick Thomassey.

Protesters eventually left their spot outside the courthouse, marching down Forbes Avenue, where they blocked the Forbes-Smithfield Street intersection.

They then blocked the Forbes-Wood Street intersection for about 15 minutes, before proceeding to Market Square, where the group soon dispersed.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto defended the new policy during a late-morning press conference. He noted that it would apply not just to Antwon Rose protests but to any non-permitted march. "It's not the message that's being regulated here," he said. "It's nine criticial intersections and nine critical roads that ... for the safety of the city that have to be and remain open."

"The ACLU would tell you that this policy is very liberal in leaning towards First Amendment rights," Peduto added. "We could have policies that would prohibit all streets to be blocked, and just provide certain free speech zones. ... We're not doing that."Katie Blackley contributed to this report.