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.

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.

A Pittsburgh teacher faced a racial slur and threats in a city park this week.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Eight abortion providers across Pennsylvania are suing the state’s Department of Human Services for prohibiting the use of Medicaid funds for abortions. Represented by the Women’s Law Project, their case will be argued virtually on Wednesday in  Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

NAACP Pennsylvania

The NAACP is in the final push of a fall campaign aimed at boosting Black voter turnout in battleground states, including Pennsylvania. The “Black Voices Change Lives” campaign will use volunteers to call or text low frequency Black voters and urge them to cast their ballots on November 3.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Before Jeannine Cook opened Harriett’s Bookshop on Girard Avenue in Fishtown earlier this year, she had been an educator. She still has a few tricks from the classroom up her sleeve.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The wife of Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor said she was confronted at the grocery store by a woman who used a racial slur against her.

PA House Panel Considers Tenant Right To Attorney

Oct 11, 2020
Matt Smith / Keystone Crossroads

Much of the discussion around evictions in Pennsylvania has focused on eviction bans or financial assistance for tenants and landlords.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

People’s Pride returns to Pittsburgh this weekend as a hybrid of virtual and in-person events. 

Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA

Dozens joined Put People First Pennsylvania for a march Thursday at Mellon Green downtown. The public health care advocacy group is holding seven marches across the Commonwealth this week to call for Medicaid for all. 

How PA's Victim Advocate Found Herself In The Crosshairs Of The GOP-Led Senate

Sep 28, 2020
Tim Tai / Philadelphia Inquirer

The signs at first were subtle.

Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA

Three local activists are heading to trial to face charges in connection with a June protest at 941 Saloon downtown. The majority of charges against Dena Stanley, Nique Craft and Christian Carter were held for trial at a preliminary hearing Friday.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

On Wednesday, a Kentucky grand jury decided not to charge Louisville police for the killing of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid gone wrong, with prosecutors saying that two officers who fired their weapons at the Black woman were justified in using force to protect themselves after they faced gunfire.