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Weekend Of Protests In Pittsburgh Ends In Peaceful Vigil

An-Li Herring
90.5 WESA
People hold signs while protesting downtown this past weekend.


On today's program: After two days of protests of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, Pittsburgh demonstrations end in a peaceful vigil; and a Liberian-born poet discusses her latest collection of poetry. 

Prayers for unity, action after killing in Minneapolis
(00:00 — 13:00 )

Cities across the country, including Pittsburgh, saw peaceful protests turn violent over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man slain by police last week.

In Pittsburgh, more than 40 people were arrested, store fronts were vandalized and police cars set afire. The destruction was not supported by protest organizers. The weekend concluded with a vigil in East Liberty.

WESA reporterAn-Li Herring followed the protest from its start near Market Square to the end at PPG Paints Arena. She says that the protest was one of the largest demonstrations she had ever covered, with an estimated 3- to 5,000 people filling the streets, but their frustration echoed past protests.

“You heard a lot of the same chants and sentiments, and this continued sense of weariness that this is happening again and we’ve been calling for the same reforms for years now. And there is just this sense of disappointment and sadness and rage—a lot of emotions,” she says.

Nate Smallwood, a photojournalist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, says that despite the masks worn to protect against COVID-19, protestors’ feelings were evident.

“Saturday, the pain in people’s eyes was crystal clear. You couldn’t not see that. The tears, the body language of people propping up their neighbors, and towards the end, the anger was laid bare,” he says. “I think that it seemed like a cry for help. They call it a cry for help because a cry loud—it’s not a soft-spoken request for help, it’s not a murmur for help. It’s loud and it’s rude at times, but I think now it gets your attention.”

 The main message of Sunday evening’s vigil was the need for love, says WESA’sSarah Schneider. “A pastor prayed for white people to consider their own actions,” she says. “Many speakers asked people to go back home and continue to do the work.” 

Author of “Praise Song” talks poetry and more
(13:01 — 17:54)

Poet Patricia Jabbeh Wesley was born in Liberia, but she and her family fled her country’s brutal civil war in 1991. Since 2005, she has taught at Penn State Altoona. Jabbeh Wesley’s latest book is “Praise Song for My Children: New and Selected Poems.” She says she is part American and part African "and you never know who you are till you go back home."

WESA’s Bill O’Driscollspoke with her about her poetry, her changing relationship with Liberia, and the concept of “home.”

90.5 WESA's Megan Harris contributed to this report.

 The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Doug Shugarts is a 23-year veteran of broadcast news. Doug began his career at WBUR in Boston, where he worked on the nationally-syndicated programs “The Connection” and “Here and Now.” He won awards for best use of sound, coverage of the 2003 war in Iraq, and helped launch the station’s local news program, “Radio Boston.” In 2014 Doug moved across town to GBH and helped reboot morning news programming and launch other broadcast and web projects. Doug studied Composition at Berklee College of Music and Computer Science and Mathematics at the University of California. A resident of Pittsburgh’s Southside, Doug enjoys feasting on arepas and yucca fries at Cilantro and Ajo and meeting his canine neighbors at Big Dog Coffee.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
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