Identity & Justice

The identity and justice desk explores how the makeup of the Pittsburgh community is changing, and digs into issues of diversity and equity.

Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Drug companies are on the verge of releasing coronavirus vaccines to the public, but getting Black people and Latinos to trust the vaccine is yet another hurdle in the pandemic that has affected people of color the most.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh paid out $19,237,000 to victims of sexual abuse by its clergy members through a compensation fund launched after the release of a grand jury report in 2018. That report found widespread child sexual abuse in Catholic churches across Pennsylvania.

The settlements were paid out by the Kenneth Feinberg Group, an independent mediator hired by the diocese in 2019, to 244 claims, according to a statement from the diocese Thursday.

Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA News

A ban on buying books for people incarcerated at the Allegheny County Jail was lifted Wednesday. The policy prevented people at the jail and their loved ones from purchasing books from approved third party providers. The ban lasted a little more than two weeks.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Racial disparities persist in Allegheny County’s criminal justice system, according to a report the Abolitionist Law Center’s Court Watch program released Tuesday. The study documents racial imbalances at the earliest stages of the criminal court process.

Female Ex-Inmates Allege Excessive Force At Allegheny County Jail

Dec 2, 2020
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

An Allegheny County Jail sergeant used excessive force on three female former inmates, one of whom was pregnant, with psychiatric disabilities, according to a federal lawsuit.

Cosby's Sex Assault Conviction Goes Before High-Level Court

Dec 1, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania's highest court questioned Tuesday whether Bill Cosby's alleged history of intoxicating and sexually assaulting young women amounted to a signature crime pattern, given studies that show as many as half of all sexual assaults involve drugs or alcohol.

Ex-Penn St. President's Sandusky-Related Conviction Restored

Dec 1, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

A federal appeals court on Tuesday reinstated former Penn State President Graham Spanier's conviction for child endangerment over his handling of a report that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused a boy in a team shower.

Maria Scapellato 90.5 WESA

Soup kitchens are typically busy places on Thanksgiving Day. They have always offered people in need a place to come in from the cold and share a turkey dinner with their neighbors in the community.

Evan Vucci / AP

Lawyers representing families detained at the Berks County Residential Center say Immigrations and Customs Enforcement may deport two families as soon as this weekend. They argue those families and 21 other families detained in Dilley, Texas, never received a fair chance to state their case for asylum because their cases were decided under policies that courts later struck down.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Officials at the Allegheny County Jail announced Monday that 10 jail employees were diagnosed with COVID-19 over the past weekend, with another 50 quarantined. Since March, some 33 staffers at the jail have tested positive for the virus.

Marc Levy / AP

The state Senate denied the commonwealth’s victim advocate, Jennifer Storm, another term by a vote of 32 to 18 Monday. Supporters of the move said Storm is both unqualified and under investigation by the State Ethics Committee

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

A judge in western Pennsylvania accused of making racially insensitive comments has resigned one day before he was to face a misconduct trial.

Heather Khalifa / Philadelphia Inquirer

When David Galarza showed up at Christ Lutheran Church in the majority-Hispanic city of Reading on Election Day, the lines were long and moving slow, even though it was the middle of the day, when fewer people are typically voting.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Groups that support LGBTQ students are trying to connect with young people in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, but say virtual learning spaces create challenges. 

Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA

A “Stop the Steal,” protest claiming some mail-in ballots are fraudulent was met by a few counter protesters and scores of police officers in downtown Pittsburgh Friday. The entire protest lasted about 90 minutes.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

As uncertain as the 2020 election has been, one thing appears clear: A ballot referendum to strengthen Pittsburgh’s Citizen Police Review Board is certain to pass. More than three-quarters of city voters voted in favor. If the reforms go into effect, officers could face stricter discipline, including termination, for not cooperating in investigations.

Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA

Demonstrators gathered in downtown Pittsburgh Wednesday afternoon for two protests to demand that, “every ballot be counted” in Pennsylvania. Later in the evening three people were arrested after a group split off from one of the protests. The state has been a major focus of the 2020 Election, as ballots are still being counted to determine which presidential candidate will earn the commonwealth’s 20 electoral votes.

From 90.5 WESA, this is Land & Power: who has it, what they do with it, and how that shapes the cities around us.


Tyger Williams / Philadelphia Inqurier

Laura Gallagher waited until she was back in her car to cry.

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

A prayer rally organized by faith leaders Sunday to promote unity with police and elected officials was disrupted by anti-police activists.

Body Cam, 911 Tapes In Walter Wallace Killing To Be Released

Oct 28, 2020
Matt Slocum / AP

The police commissioner in Philadelphia said Wednesday that her department will release 911 tapes and footage from police body cameras “in the near future” in the shooting death of a Black man following two nights of protests that set off clashes with police and break-ins of stores on the other side of the city.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA


On today's program: The Tree of Life community continues to live with the aftermath of the 2018 attack; a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp and the Tree of Life worshipper shares his story; and a writer documents the resilience of the Squirrel Hill community in a new book.

David Goldman / AP

Police shot and killed a 27-year-old Black man on a Philadelphia street after yelling at him to drop his knife, sparking violent protests that police said injured 30 officers and led to dozens of arrests.

The shooting occurred before 4 p.m. Monday as officers responded to a report of a person with a weapon, police spokesperson Tanya Little said.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Two years ago, the three congregations sharing space at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue relocated after an anti-Semitic gunman killed 11 worshippers. Last March, the congregations dispersed from their new locations due to the coronavirus pandemic and switched to virtual services.

Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA

Attorneys for the family of a man killed by Wilkinsburg Police have filed a federal lawsuit citing excessive force. Romir Talley was fatally shot by Wilkinsburg Police officer Robert Gowans in December 2019.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, also includes claims of unreasonable seizure and improper training of officers by the police department.

Charlie Riedel / AP

Allegheny County Council joined Pittsburgh City Council Tuesday in voting unanimously to ban hair discrimination in employment, education, housing, and other settings. 

Justices Review Priest Abuse Lawsuit's Ruling On Time Limits

Oct 20, 2020
Pier Paolo Cito / AP

Pennsylvania's highest court on Tuesday grappled with whether a woman's lawsuit on claims of sexual abuse by a priest decades ago should be allowed to proceed — a lower-court ruling that has launched many other lawsuits since it was issued a year ago.

Review Finds Most Arrested In Protests Aren't Leftist Radicals

Oct 20, 2020
Gene J. Puskar / AP

President Donald Trump portrays the hundreds of people arrested nationwide in protests against racial injustice as violent urban left-wing radicals. But an Associated Press review of thousands of pages of court documents tell a different story.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Voters in the city of Pittsburgh have a referendum on the ballot this fall. It’s an effort to strengthen the city’s police review board. But there is a chance that even if it passes, the issue may not be settled on Election Night.

Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA

Most of the more than two dozen charges against activist Lorenzo Rulli, stemming from six racial justice protests in Pittsburgh this year, will proceed to trial. Rulli appeared in Pittsburgh Municipal Court Friday.