Pittsburgh monitoring social media reports of possible protests

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh public safety officials said they are monitoring social media reports of possible protests in the city ahead of the Presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C.

According to a statement, officials said if any city employees participated in “Wednesday’s deadly insurrection” on Capitol Hill, they would be disciplined.

“We’re not going to be in session, buildings aren’t like they are in DC. So it’s a little bit different. But I think we would just have enough force as we do to be prepared for anything,” said Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Conner.

During social justice protests last summer, Pittsburgh police adjusted its policy to be less visible in an effort to avoid unnecessary clashes with peaceful protesters.

But O’Connor said that may need to change with this group of demonstrators

“When you’re dealing with this, and I think those individuals, you might have to show more force than hiding people in a crowd. We’ll see what happens but it’s all for precaution right now,” O’Connor said.

Here is the statement in full from Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich:

“As is always the case, Public Safety is preparing with our law enforcement partners at the local, state and federal levels for any and all events in the city. While we cannot discuss specific preparations, I have personally been in regular contact with law enforcement in order to continuously monitor the situation and prepare. We will ensure Public Safety.”

Inauguration Day takes place on Wednesday, Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn into office.

According to the Washington Post, Pittsburgh was included in social media posts among possible sites where violence could occur. A case study from the Alethea Group said posts about the city included pictures of stockpiles of ammunition. The report said specific locations included the U.S. Capitol and the Mall in Washington, the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio.

Twitter posted a statement on Friday after permanently suspending President Donald Trump’s account that plans for “future armed protests” were already in the works on its platform. “Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021.”

FBI officials from the Pittsburgh Field Office sent Channel 11 a statement, saying their office is also monitoring reports of violence.

“The FBI is aware of the report and working closely with our state, local and federal law enforcement partners with maintaining public safety by focusing our efforts on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals who are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity.”