PITTSBURGH — Days of protests led to Wednesday night’s conversation between Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and protesters on the front porch of the mayor’s home in Point Breeze, but it didn’t produce the result protesters were hoping for.
The dialogue quickly devolved after nearly two hours, and the night ended with police clashing with protesters in Mellon Park -- resulting in one arrest and an officer injured.
“He was listening to reply, you’re not listening to understand,” said Alexis Mighty, coordinator of the group Pittsburgh I Can’t Breathe. “Because every response was just, ‘oh, but the police.‘”
Protest organizers told Channel 11 they have done everything they can to get Peduto to listen to their message, to no success.
Mighty said remaining peaceful and avoiding destroying property or creating too much chaos for local neighborhoods is a huge part of getting their message across.
Beth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen’s Police Review Board, said it is no one’s fault the dialogue was unsuccessful.
“That was just not the venue, the time, or the place to do that,” she said. “And I think I would look for him to follow up with some invitation to the individuals to come forward and set a time and location.”
Pittinger also said they had previously raised questions about whether private retaliation is acceptable for public acts.
“They determined that there are limits to the extent you can go to someone’s residence and disrupt the entire neighborhood and put people in a fearful situation,” she said.
But the protesters said they weren’t causing a disruption and that most neighbors actually supported their actions by offering food, bathroom breaks and chanting with them.
And Mighty told Channel 11 they are not just protesting, but Peduto hasn’t been giving them the forum to speak.
“We tried to sit in on city council meetings. We called the right people, the authorities. It’s just like, how much more are we gonna have to do?” she said.
Mighty said when the conversation Wednesday ended, police told them to leave the area and directed them to Mellon Park. Police said the park was then closed, and the situation escalated from there.
“They started tear-gassing and spraying people like directly in the face like right here, and people were trying to run and disperse because now the residue is hitting everyone else,” Mighty said.
Meanwhile, Pittinger said as far as she could tell from videos online, protesters were following directions while exercising their rights. She said the “overt use” of force against the people who followed what they were told to do needs to be reviewed.
“Yes, they were loud, they chanted. There was a lot of yelling and screaming. Thus far, I have not seen any evidence on video that there were any overt threats made from the protesting group to the police,” Pittinger said.
Police officials said they are in the process of reviewing what happened Wednesday night.
Cox Media Group