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.

Screen grab via @BLMlehighvalley on Twitter

Video posted on social media that shows a Pennsylvania police officer with his knee on a man's neck while trying to restrain him has prompted protests and a demand from the local Black Lives Matter group to suspend the officers involved.

The video shot Saturday night from a passerby's vehicle shows Allentown officers restraining a man on the ground outside the emergency room of the Sacred Heart Campus of St. Luke's Hospital. An officer has his elbow on the man's neck before switching to a knee to hold him down while other officers restrained his arms.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

For the sixth week, Pittsburghers marched through the city for Civil Saturdays to protest police brutality.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Dannielle Brown wants answers. 

Marc Levy / AP

Marsha Scaggs admits she was part of a drug deal that turned deadly more than 30 years ago in Lawrence County, Pa. 

Some Police Departments Say Publicizing Use-Of-Force Policies Builds Trust. Others Disagree

Jul 7, 2020
Ed Mahon / PA Post

In an attempt to assuage the public’s demands for increased accountability of police officers, a spattering of departments across Pennsylvania post their use-of-force policies to their websites, making public the rules for when officers can use pepper spray, strike someone or fire their gun.

90.5 WESA

Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 have prompted the closure of some judicial facilities in Allegheny County. The county’s court administration said Monday that four probation offices have been closed, along with a magisterial district court in Verona, Pa. But local defense attorneys say they have concerns about a lack of communication from court officials about the threat.

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

Protesters lined about a half-mile of Fifth Avenue, in Oakland, at noon Wednesday for the Interfaith Vigil for Black Lives. Passing motorists honked their horns in support of the roughly 200 demonstrators, who gathered to hold signs referencing scripture and bearing messages including “We Stand With Our Neighbors” and “We Are All God’s Creation – Put An End To Discrimination.”

Laura Benshoff / WHYY

California’s Central District Court ruled last Friday that ICE should release children from the country’s three family detention centers, two in Texas and one in Berks County.

Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA

The family of Marcus White, a 15-month-old boy who died in a 2013 East Hills shooting, called for the state to step in to prosecute their case Tuesday. They filed a victims’ rights complaint against the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office Monday.

Ariel Worthy / 90.5 WESA


Pittsburgh’s Hill District has a history of displacement, gentrification and racism. It also has a history of rebuilding, community, and fighting back.  

A half-dozen people involved in a June 1 East Liberty protest have filed a federal lawsuit against city of Pittsburgh officials, alleging that police violated their civil rights and “escalat[ed] a peaceful protest into a scene of pandemonium, panic, violence and bloodshed.”

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Protesters gathered in Mellon Park in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood Saturday afternoon, for the fourth consecutive Civil Saturdays event. The weekly demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality are organized by high schoolers and recent graduates with the group Black, Young, & Educated.

Ariel Worthy / 90.5 WESA

Demonstrators gathered outside the Target in East Liberty on Friday to protest the treatment of Black people by law enforcement. Such protests have taken place in Pittsburgh since late May, following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. 

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

A Philadelphia SWAT officer caught on video using pepper spray on a group of protesters at close range during a demonstration on I-676 will be fired, and the police commander who greenlit the use of these less-than-lethal munitions will accept a voluntary demotion, officials announced Thursday.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Less than a year after producing a harrowing report on the health crisis facing black women in Pittsburgh, the city’s Gender Equity Commission has offered some solutions – with a focus on crises in policing and health care that have dominated headlines.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

On Saturday afternoon hundreds of people gathered in front of Pittsburgh’s City-County Building. They filled Grant Street between Fourth and Forbes avenues in a giant circle to oppose police brutality and call to amend Pennsylvania’s use of force law.

Lawmakers Urged To Make Police Discipline Records Public

Jun 19, 2020
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

With some states taking a fresh look at strengthening measures to hold police officers accountable, lawmakers in Pennsylvania are being urged to join states that make police department records of officer discipline accessible to the public.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

Friday marks two years since black Rankin teen, Antwon Rose, was shot and killed by a white East Pittsburgh police officer. Rose’s death sparked weeks of demonstrations, and local community organizer Christian Carter said those actions provided a foundation for today’s demonstrations over police brutality and systemic oppression.

Kiley Koscinski / 90.5 WESA

Demonstrators marched from Freedom Corner in the Hill District to the City County Building downtown Thursday afternoon in a protest organized by the groups Trans YOUniting and 1Hood Media. 


An Allegheny County Council committee has decided not to back a bill that would mandate universal COVID-19 testing at the county jail and Kane Community Living Centers. Democrat Bethany Hallam introduced the legislation in May, given that people in group-living settings face a heightened risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Justices Say Child Welfare Agency Can't Mandate Drug Testing

Jun 16, 2020
Matt Rourke / AP

Officials may not order drug tests as part of a child-abuse investigation, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, siding with a prosecutor who had come under the scrutiny of a county child welfare agency.

Matt Rourke / AP

An appeals court should have privately reviewed a state police policy that guides troopers' monitoring of social media before deciding it was OK to block public disclosure of the policy, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

Shantale Davis

An attorney for one of the black journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who the paper barred from covering police brutality protests after claiming she was biased, filed a federal civil lawsuit against the paper Tuesday morning.

Big Win For LGBT Rights, But Fight's Not Over In Pennsylvania

Jun 16, 2020
Matt Slocum / AP

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday will extend legal protection to gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination at certain workplaces across all of Pennsylvania, but advocates for LGBT rights say a years-long fight for civil rights in the state Legislature is not over.

Three-Day Suspension For Erie Officer Who Kicked Protester

Jun 16, 2020
Screenshot from video

Erie officials on Monday said they are imposing a three-day suspension on a city police officer who was captured on video kicking a woman during a protest in the wake of the George Floyd killing.

Ariel Worthy / WESA

Local activists demanded a series of police reforms on Monday morning, calling for changes that include cutting police budgets, increasing oversight, and removing police from schools.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA


On today's program: Protests and demonstrations demanding an end to racism and police violence against people of color continue across the country; Mike Turzai retires as Speaker of the Pennsylvania House; and local nonprofits are working hard to provide more aid during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Charles R. Martin Photographs / University of Pittsburgh

Lenore Williams was living in Homewood when civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. 

Kara Holsopple / Allegheny Front

Protests against police brutality continued in the Pittsburgh area on Sunday, as hundreds gathered for a demonstration in Murrysville, in Westmoreland.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Hundreds gathered in Squirrel Hill this afternoon for “Civil Saturday,” a weekly demonstration begun by Black, Young & Educated, a Pittsburgh group created in 2019 by five teenagers. Participants were asked to wear black as a tribute to the Pan-African flag; adopted in 1920, the red, black, and green flag represents "black freedom."