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Pittsburghers Gathered To Honor George Floyd After Derek Chauvin's Conviction

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Protests took place nationwide last summer, including at Pittsburgh’s Freedom Corner in June, after the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.

On today's program: Legal analyst David Harris weighs in on the impact of Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the death of George Floyd, and reporter Kiley Koscinski explains how the community is reacting; reporter Margaret J. Krauss previews the city’s plan to deconstruct some condemned homes that would otherwise be demolished; and nearly a year after the death of George Floyd, local Black Lives Matter leaders are planning their next steps.

After Derek Chauvin's conviction, a legal analyst weighs in, and how the community is responding
(0:00 — 7:03)

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin faces sentencing in eight weeks after being found guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd.

Residents gathered last evening at Freedom Corner in the Hill District to mark Chauvin’s conviction.

“Several people I talked with said this wasn’t a celebratory gathering, rather it was a moment to memorialize George Floyd and others killed by police brutality,” says WESA reporter Kiley Koscinski.

“There were a dozen or so speeches, poems, and songs, and people just really gathering to listen to each other and be a community,” says Koscinski.

University of Pittsburgh law professor and WESA legal analyst David Harris says he was not surprised by the verdict.

“The evidence was very, very strong, not only that video but also all of the medical evidence countering the defense’s argument that somehow this was George Floyd’ fault for taking a drug, or it was his heart condition.”

“But I have to say also, I am relieved because we know how difficult it is to get a conviction of a police officer, even in a case like this with very strong evidence.”

Harris adds it’s important that the Minneapolis police chief testified Chauvin’s action violated department policy.

“What happened with Derek Chauvin, what Derek Chauvin did, was deeply, deeply damaging, not just to George Floyd and to Black Americans, and all Americans, but to policing itself, and I think that’s what was different,” says Harris.

He says the case has already inspired changes to use of force law in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is piloting a deconstruction program to address blighted homes
(7:06 — 6:03)

The city of Pittsburgh is looking at a new way to deal with its 1,700 condemned houses. Instead of demolishing them, it’s looking to deconstruct some of them.

“Demolition is where a small crew rolls into a neighborhood and brings a bunch of really big machines and just knocks down a house,” explains Margaret J. Krauss, WESA’s development and transportation reporter.

“Deconstruction is where a larger crew rolls into a neighborhood and they carefully take apart a house, piece by piece,” says Krauss. While a demolished house largely ends up in a landfill, deconstructed home materials can be salvaged or recycled.

“Deconstruction is neither cheaper nor faster,” says Krauss. “However, the idea is that it creates more jobs and you’re preventing all this material from going to the landfill, and you’re saving materials that can be resold.”

Right now, it’s not yet entirely clear where the money to deconstruct homes may come from, but it could be paid for, eventually, by the benefits of deconstruction, like re-selling salvaged materials.

The city will start the pilot program by identifying 10 home candidates for deconstruction.

Local Black activists are planning their next steps
(13:09 — 18:00)

George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last summer led to demonstrations across the country and here in Pittsburgh.

In addition to protesting, two young Pittsburgh groups are diversifying their tactics in the fight for racial justice. 90.5 WESA’s Kiley Koscinski caught up with them.

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.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at
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