More than six weeks after George Floyd was killed under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, protests in Pittsburgh continued to call for sweeping changes to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and an end to systemic racism.
Hundreds gathered in East Liberty Monday afternoon at the former Zone 5 police station in East Liberty, which protesters say the police department plans to reoccupy and marched throughout East Liberty and Friendship to protest the move, and to call on city officials to defund the police.
“There is still a lot of high-end development that’s going on in this city. We still have this divide in Penn Avenue," organizer Randall Taylor said. "On one side of the street are upscale businesses and on the other side of the street are businesses that cater primarily to an African American consumer.”
Taylor believes that returning the police station to the area will make things worse, pushing even more Black people out by making them feel too uncomfortable to live, travel through or shop in the neighborhood.
“When you have more police presence, you’re going to have more interactions with police, and when you have more interactions, that's going to lead to more arrests and other unpleasant things,” he said.
Taylor envisions a new use for the Zone 5 station.
“We need to convert that police station into a peace station, p-e-a-c-e, and talk about how to use that space to create a stronger community,” he said.
Protesters also wanted to protect themselves and one another from contracting COVID-19. In attempts to do so, organizers did several 6-feet checks and asked protesters to spread out from one another. Everyone wore masks.
A public safety spokesperson could not be reached for comment about the department’s plans for moving back to the East Liberty station. A leaky roof and sewer problems at the North Euclid Ave. station prompted the police to move to another building on Washington Blvd in 2007, according to reporting from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The building was shared with firefighters who moved out last summer for repairs, according to a police press release.
But East Liberty has undergone massive changes since the building was last used -- and the dialogue over policing has shifted across the country in the past few months.
“Pittsburgh needs to make changes,” said Nique Craft, one of the leaders of a Monday protest. “This is a civil rights movement for a lot of us and it is important. You don’t do this because you have time off of work. You do it because you mean it.”