PITTSBURGH — Protests in the city of Pittsburgh held in response to the death of George Floyd turned violent Saturday evening.
Floyd died while in police custody earlier this week. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Chauvin is accused of keeping his knee on the Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
UPDATE 2:30 p.m.: Officials with Pittsburgh Public Safety said 60 businesses and properties in downtown areas were damaged by looters and rioters, including hotels, restaurants and small businesses. Of the 44 people arrested, 16 live in the city and the remaining people are from places like New Castle and New Kensington.
UPDATE 8:41 a.m. 5/31/20: Channel 11′s Lori Houy is downtown and reports dozens of shops have had their windows smashed.
One man, Bob Coen, was sweeping up the sidewalk Sunday morning.
“I was hoping Pittsburgh would be a little light on the destruction and all that. You know, people from Pittsburgh, that’s not showing the people from Pittsburgh, what happened here,” he said.
UPDATE 6:30 a.m. 5/31/20: Pittsburgh Public Safety tells Channel 11 44 people were arrested overnight during looting and rioting that broke out.
Stores along Wood Street, including the CVS Pharmacy were smashed in and looted by crowds Saturday night. The Zone 2 police substation had windows smashed and was boarded up overnight. The T Mobile and Cricket stores on Fifth Avenue were broken into and a dumpster was set on fire. The GNC store at the corner of Wood Street and 6th Avenue was smashed and looted and doors and windows were boarded up as well.
UPDATE 11:20 p.m. 5/30/20: Gov. Tom Wolf signed a disaster emergency declaration to provide assistance after protests in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
“People have every right to speak out and demonstrate, but it's unacceptable to take advantage of protests to incite violence, harm others and destroy property,” Gov. Wolf said. “This declaration authorizes the commonwealth and its agencies to assist municipalities in their response to de-escalate violence and keep our communities safe."
"Pittsburgh has long been a home to constitutionally protected protests and will continue to be one — but we will not allow others to hijack the goodwill of our community to spread needless destruction, fear and violence. I thank the governor for this extra tool to keep our neighbors safe," Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto said.
The declaration allocates $2 million in unused funds to help with expenses following the protests.
The declaration authorizes the Adjutant General of the PA National Guard and the Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner to activate personnel and use resources as necessary to alleviate the danger to public health and safety caused by this emergency.
Earlier today, Wolf announced that the Commonwealth Response Coordination Center, which is already activated at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency for the state’s COVID-19 response, has added extra staff to maintain situational awareness for the protests.
UPDATE 11:12 p.m. 5/30/20: Police have blocked off the inbound Liberty Bridge, West End Bridge and Hot Metal Bridge a blocked off.
UPDATE: 10:54 p.m.5/30/20: The four Pittsburgh police officers who were taken to the hospital have been treated and released.
UPDATE 10:00 p.m.5/30/20: Pittsburgh Public Safety officials said four Pittsburgh police officers were taken to hospitals with injuries. Many other officers were injured, but didn’t require hospitalization.
Three local journalists were injured when protesters attacked them, officials said, but none were seriously injured.
Medics treated several people for gas exposure.
Officials said dozens of businesses downtown were damaged and/or looted and dozens of rioters have been arrested.
They said final numbers will be available tomorrow.
UPDATE 9:32 p.m.5/30/20: Officers are starting to make arrests as a curfew is in effect for the city of Pittsburgh.
Public Safety officials said pockets of rioters remain Downtown and larger groups are traveling on Ft. Duquesne Boulevard.
They are asking everyone to please continue to avoid the area.
UPDATE 9:00 p.m. 5/30/20: Gov. Tom Wolf announced that the Commonwealth Response Coordination Center, which is already activated at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) for the state’s COVID-19 response, has added extra staff to maintain situational awareness for the protests happening around the state, including here in Pittsburgh.
Wolf said his administration has been in touch with counties throughout the day, offering any needed assistance.
UPDATE 8:43 p.m.: Pittsburgh Public Safety officials said they believe the violence during the protests was committed by people who are not from Pittsburgh.
UPDATE 7:56 p.m.: Port Authority said all bus and light rail service is being suspended for the evening.
UPDATE 7:36 p.m.: The City of Pittsburgh has declared a citywide curfew starting at 8:30 p.m. tonight until 6 a.m. Sunday morning.
The curfew will also be in place Sunday night.
According to Pittsburgh Public Safety Officials, multiple officers have been injured. They said at least three local journalists were also attacked and injured by protesters.
UPDATE 7:34 p.m.: Pittsburgh Public Safety officials said rioting and looting are continuing in downtown Pittsburgh, including on 5th Avenue, Penn Avenue and Liberty Avenue.
UPDATE 7:21 p.m.: Bishop David Zubik issued a statement by sending an “urgent call for calm”:
"Watching a peaceful protest against racial injustice break down into violence in Pittsburgh, I am sending out an urgent call for calm as we work for justice. I ask all believers to pray and act for peace, unity and that perfect balance of justice and mercy that is the hallmark of God’s work in our world.
I mourn with the family of George Floyd and all who have lost loved ones to inexcusable violence. I especially pray with and for the members of the African American community.
Racism is a sin. We must all work to overcome the injustice with which this sin infects our society. Some of the protests are occurring near Freedom Corner, which is an historic gathering place to call for unity and the true justice whose fruit is peace. It happens as we Christians prepare to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit’s flames inspired a movement to preach God’s love and mercy -- Who is Jesus Himself. May Jesus now give us that peace which only He can give and no one can take away."
UPDATE 7:00 p.m.: Pittsburgh Public Safety officials have “declared an unlawful assembly downtown." They are telling businesses to close and people to stay at home.
UPDATE 6:45 p.m.: Pittsburgh Public Safety is telling everyone to avoid downtown Pittsburgh. It is not safe.
UPDATE 6:25 p.m.: Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto just tweeted a response to the protests that are happening right now in Pittsburgh saying, “To those vandalizing Downtown. You will be arrested."
UPDATE 6:23 p.m. Two journalists covering the protests were injured around PPG Paints arena.
UPDATE 6:15 p.m.: NEW VIDEO: Channel 11′s crew captured this video of a second Pittsburgh police car on fire.
UPDATE 6:10 p.m.: Gov. Wolf Issues statement on injustice, encourages Pennsylvanians to keep each other safe:
"This weekend, throughout Pennsylvania, people are protesting violence and injustice that occurs far too often against people of color. Everyone should speak out because no one should be at risk of harm because of oppression or racism. We have seen these injustices happen in the Commonwealth, and this week, we were all shaken by the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota.
As Pennsylvanians protest, I urge everyone involved to be peaceful and to keep each other safe.
Throughout the day, my Administration has been in touch with municipalities, and we have offered whatever assistance is needed to keep our communities from suffering from additional violence and pain.
Please stay safe, and remember that we all must look out for each other as we seek to make our commonwealth more just and fair for everyone."
UPDATE 6:06 p.m.: Police in riot gear are marching down Centre Avenue.
UPDATE 6:04 p.m.: Protesters have now smashed the front of a business on Smithfield Street and officers have had to use gas to disperse the crowd.
A statue and wall outside of PPG Paints Arena has been vandalized by protesters.
UPDATE 5:58 p.m.: Around 100 police officers are linked arm in arm and are lined up around PPG Paints Arena near where earlier a Pittsburgh police car was set on fire.
UPDATE 5:50 p.m.: Protests have turned violent and the crowd has split into groups across the city. No one has been injured, according to Pittsburgh Public Safety.
UPDATE 5:46 p.m.: A second police car is now on fire in downtown Pittsburgh.
UPDATE 5:25 p.m.: Pittsburgh Public Safety said the Veterans Bridge is at a standstill in both directions, and protesters are moving onto Route 28.
Another unmarked Pittsburgh police vehicle is now on fire near PPG Paints Arena.
Officials said the “situation is dangerous,” to avoid the area if possible and be safe.
UPDATE 5:10 p.m.: Pittsburgh Public Safety says there are multiple closures as a result of the crowd of protesters moving through Pittsburgh.
UPDATE 5:00 p.m.: Chopper 11 is over the Pittsburgh police car on fire.
Pittsburgh Public Safety says heavy smoke can be seen from near PPG Paints Arena from the burning police vehicle.
UPDATE 4:45 p.m.: Protesters are using objects to smash and vandalize a Pittsburgh police car and set it on fire as they continue to march through downtown Pittsburgh.
A few protesters have also been seen chasing officers of Pittsburgh’s mounted police unit.
UPDATE 4:38 p.m.: Protesters are now moving towards the Uptown section of Pittsburgh.
UPDATE 4:35 p.m.: The protests continue to remain peaceful as the crowd marches through downtown Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh police have gotten out riot shields as a precaution.
UPDATE 4:22 p.m.: Pittsburgh The Black Elected officials coalition issued a statement Saturday afternoon regarding the death of George Floyd:
"Today we, members of the Pittsburgh Black Elected Officials Coalition, stand united with local citizen organizers who are demanding changes to our system in the unjust treatment of Black people around the country. We recognize that this is an institutional challenge that is historic and deeply rooted. There must be focused and renewed attention to disrupt and permanently change these senseless and traumatic attacks of law-abiding citizens.
We stand with the families of George Floyd, Antwon Rose II, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Stephon Clark, Philando Castille, and far too many more to name! The murdering of African American citizens by the very people paid to keep them safe must and has to end! Over the past several years we have pushed for institutional changes to how police are trained, certified(licensed), how their conduct is reviewed, information shared, and how they are held to higher professional standards. All these changes to the procedure are still needed and we need to move quickly to address these systemic flaws or continue to see these protests occur!
We are calling on all the governmental and judicial leaders to move to address this systemic failure that continues to allow innocent Black citizens to be brutalized and murdered by those who have found their way into our law enforcement ranks!"
UPDATE 4:19 p.m.: Protesters are now on Crosstown Boulevard blocking the ramps going to the Liberty Bridge.
UPDATE 4:02 p.m.: President of the Pittsburgh NAACP, Richard A. Stewart Jr., issued the following statement surrounding tragic events that have unfolded in the United States:
"Black families and communities across this country are unified at this moment by unfortunate and tragic circumstances:
• In Minneapolis, Minnesota, George Floyd, a black man, begging that “I can’t breathe” was still handcuffed and put facedown on the pavement and a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck causing him to die. The videotaped incident has been seen around the world.
• In a neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia, Ahmaud Arbery, a black man, was fatally gunned down by two white men as he was jogging in his neighborhood.
• In Louisville, Kentucky, Breonna Taylor, a black woman, died in the hallway of her apartment after police fired “more than 20 rounds, striking Taylor at least eight times.”
“The words of George Floyd pleading to police, ‘I can’t breathe!’ are haunting – heightening the conscience of benevolent Americans nationwide and those in Pittsburgh who recall the high profile police killings of Jonny Gammage and Antwon Rose II. The NAACP does not want to see any more senseless police killings. Now is the time for us to unify, uplift the family, and pursue justice,” Richard A. Stewart Jr., President, Pittsburgh Branch NAACP said.
The uprising spreading across this country is fueled by systemic racial issues that have been ingrained in the fabric of this nation for decades. As we’ve seen over the last few days, these issues have now manifested into anger, sadness, fear, and confusion. Many throughout the country are left to consider at this moment after watching the horrific footage of George Floyd: When is enough, enough?
The Pittsburgh Branch NAACP mourns for all families who have lost someone they cherish because of tragedies like the ones across the nation and right here in our City of Bridges. We are reminded of the words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. – “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”
Founded February 12, 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s foremost, largest, and most widely recognized civil rights organization. Its more than half-million members and supporters throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, leading grassroots campaigns for equal opportunity and conducting voter mobilization."
UPDATE 3:45 p.m.: The crowd of protesters is peaceful, while marching and chanting. The group has now stopped in front of the Allegheny County Courthouse.
Pittsburgh Public Safety said in a tweet to expect several and lengthy road closures.
UPDATE 3:33 p.m.: Protesters have stopped at Fifth Avenue and Liberty Avenue and is chanting “I can’t breathe.”
UPDATE 3:19 p.m.: The group of protesters are now moving up Fifth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh.
UPDATE 2:54 p.m.: Hundreds of protesters have now gathered at Sixth Street and Liberty Avenue.
Protesters are holding signs calling for justice in the death of George Floyd.
UPDATE 2:31 p.m.: The crowd holding signs and chanting as they march to the intersection of Market Street in downtown Pittsburgh.
UPDATE 2:10 p.m.: Crowds of people have gathered in downtown Pittsburgh to rally in response to the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Dozens of people gathered along street corners in Sewickley early Saturday afternoon, chanting “no justice, no peace” and holding signs reading “black lives matter.”
A flyer for the event indicates it was organized in response to the death of George Floyd after a former Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck while he was being taken into custody.
Chopper 11 flew over the scene as the group marched down the street before blocking traffic for a short time near a police SUV.
Other events have been planned for the weekend, including a protest in downtown Pittsburgh.