WESA Daily Briefing: June 19, 2020

Jun 19, 2020

News on the coronavirus pandemic, protests, 2020 election and more from around Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and southwestern Pennsylvania. 

Find all of the WESA Daily Briefing posts here

Editor's note: This post will be frequently updated with the latest news.

 

4:25 p.m. - Community remembers Antwon Rose, two years after his death

Today marks two years since Antwon Rose Jr. was shot and killed by an East Pittsburgh Police officer. Family, friends and community members gathered Friday to talk about their memories of Rose, and reflect on the current unrest around police brutality against black and brown people.

Rose’s 2018 death sparked dozens of protests throughout Pittsburgh and other cities.

Credit Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

His mother, Michelle Kenney, was reluctantly thrown into a club she never wanted to be a part of: mothers of black, unarmed people shot and killed by law enforcement.

“I only know how to be a mom,” Kenney told the crowd in East Pittsburgh. “All I know is how to fight for my kids…my kids will always be my everything.”

Kenney, who used to work as an administrative assistant at the Wilkinsburg Police Department, said she knows the fight for reform will be difficult. Still, she vowed to continue to advocate for policy changes.

“This is not a game for me. I am not playing,” Kenney said.

3:48 p.m. - Peduto wants body-camera footage to be more accessible  

  

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto says it should be easier for the public to see footage from police body-worn cameras. In a Friday statement, Peduto said, "now more than ever cities need to show transparency and accountability for police actions." 

But state law puts up numerous hurdles before the footage can be released, like requiring approval from prosecutors. Legislation to change the law has been stuck in committee, even as other reforms have advanced amid protests of police brutality.

2:46 p.m. - Allegheny County Council debates sick leave legislation

 

Depending on who you ask, the middle of a pandemic is either the best time to require paid sick-leave, or the worst.

In the first camp are labor leaders and others who say that if employees feel they have to come to work when sick, they can spread disease to others. That's one reason supporters back the legislation, which requires businesses to offer up to 5 days of paid leave each year.

Union leader Sam Williamson said for this reason the legislation is needed.

"This is an urgent time to act. Many of our most essential workers, that we've been celebrating as a nation for the last three months or so, large percentages of them don't have access to sick days,” Williamson said. “And every day these workers interact with us."

But on the other side were representatives of the restaurant industry like Melissa Bova. She told council the coronavirus has hurt restaurant business so badly that they can't afford to pay new benefits.

"They need to get through this and hopefully have a future to look forward to when legislation like this is appropriate to be discussed,” Bova said. “And that time is not today, and it's probably not tomorrow either."

Bova's trade group sued over a similar ordinance passed in Pittsburgh. And while the supreme court ultimately approved the city's law, the lawsuit delayed it for years.

The committee took no action on the bill Thursday night.

1:40 p.m. – Latest COVID numbers

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County increased by 16, to 2,138. The number of deaths remains at 177, and the number of hospitalizations remains at 361.

Statewide, the number of cases increased by 526 to 80,762. The number of deaths increased by 38 to 6,399.  

11:37 a.m. - Jobless rate slides back from pandemic peak

Pennsylvania’s unemployment began sliding down from its pandemic peak in May, even clocking in at below the national rate as payrolls grew by almost 200,000. The state Department of Labor and Industry said Friday that Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 13.1% in May. That's down 3 percentage points from April’s adjusted rate of 16.1%, its highest rate in over four decades of record-keeping. The national rate was 13.3% in May. Meanwhile, payrolls began rebounding, gaining back about 1 in 5 jobs lost during the pandemic as the number of new infections has slowed, Gov. Tom Wolf has eased social distancing restrictions and many businesses have reopened. 

7:42 a.m. - Pennsylvania celebrates Juneteenth

Pennsylvania has recognized Juneteenth as an official state holiday for one year now.

It’s the most recognized annual celebration of slavery ending in the U.S., marking when people in Texas were informed of the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier.

Some Pittsburgh businesses, like PNC will close early to observe the holiday, though employers are not required to provide the day off.

Today also marks two years since unarmed teenager Antwon Rose was killed by police during a traffic stop. Amidst the backdrop of Black Lives Matter protests, a few local events will be held to commemorate his life today. There will be a balloon release on Linden Avenue in East Pittsburgh at 10 a.m., and a sit-in is planned to start at noon, at the intersection of Lincoln highway and Center Street, in East Pittsburgh. There will also be a picnic at Frick Environmental Center at 5 p.m., and a "car cruise" in Schenley Park at 6 p.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.