PITTSBURGH — One arrest was made and an officer was assaulted after protesters clashed with police Wednesday night outside Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s home in the city’s Point Breeze neighborhood, according to Pittsburgh Public Safety.
Peduto stepped out of his home on Hastings Street earlier in the evening to have a discussion with protesters, who have been voicing concerns and calling for his resignation following the Saturday arrest of a protester by plainclothes officers in an unmarked vehicle. They also had questions about how prior protests and issues have been handled over the last couple months.
From his front porch, Peduto talked with protesters for about an hour before going back inside about 9 p.m. amid chants for him to resign.
“We have disagreements on issues. Well, then let’s speak. We need to work together to try and find a way to do it so that it can actually bring other people involved,” Peduto said.
Peduto livestreamed the conversation, which ended as protesters could be heard saying, “Mayor Peduto’s got to go.”
“The exchange ended in an impasse” and the protesters continued to “loudly demonstrate” outside Peduto’s home, Pittsburgh Public Safety tweeted.
The protest was declared an “unlawful assembly” at 10 p.m. and Pittsburgh police ordered the protesters to disperse or face possible arrest.
Officials said that after many dispersal orders were given, the crowd began to cooperate with police and exit the neighborhood and return to where the protest started at Mellon Park.
“Just before Mellon Park, officers ordered individuals to clear the street at 5th Avenue and Elysian Street and disperse. While attempting to move the crowd, a protester assaulted an officer. Another officer deployed a personal OC Spray (OC pepper spray) canister at the assaultive protester,” a Pittsburgh Public Safety spokesperson said in a statement.
One arrest was made.
Wednesday night’s demonstration followed another lengthy protest on Tuesday night, when protesters marched to Peduto’s home and camped outside, saying they wouldn’t leave until Peduto talked to them. At one point, that protest grew to about 300 people. By Wednesday morning, about a dozen protesters remained until about 10 a.m.
Peduto returned home Wednesday morning and released the following statement about the 15-hour protest outside his home:
“I have long defended First Amendment rights to peaceably protest. I strongly believe that Black Lives Matter, that we are in a historic fight for civil rights in this country, and that it is right for people to take to the streets to demand much-needed reforms to policing in our cities.
What I cannot defend is any neighborhood in our city — and their residents and families — being disturbed through the night and morning, and a peaceful protest devolving into unacceptable conduct in which residents are being harassed and threatened. This crosses a line that cannot be allowed to continue, causing those committing crimes against residents to face possible legal consequences for their actions. Using protests to create conflict and division, as some are doing, only impacts the ability of others to exercise their constitutional rights safely.
I am working to make Pittsburgh a better city for all, and I have condemned and halted the arrest methods Pittsburgh Police used last weekend. I understand that people are feeling fear, pain and anger in our communities, and that some want to take their frustrations out on me. I fully accept that, but I will not accept unjustified actions that threaten neighbors in any part of the city.”
By noon Wednesday, Pittsburgh Public Works crews had hosed off the chalk writings left by protesters, and police officers from the civil affairs unit went door to door checking on neighbors for property damage or any other concerns.
Miracle Jones, who helped organize Tuesday’s protest, told Channel 11 News she is calling for policy changes after Saturday’s “pop-up” arrest of a protester.
“As a leader, people make mistakes. We’re all human, (but) the fact that he’s not out here is very problematic,” Jones said. “I’m not going to live in fear. I’m going to be a good neighbor and advocate for change and policies.”
Peduto’s neighbors said their street has been feeling tense and officers on the block are the new norm. Many of them brought their children outside to witness the BLM movement and be a part of it.
Protesters first gathered outside Peduto’s home on Sunday.
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Cox Media Group