PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh police described a “peaceful” protest that took place in the South Side and into Uptown Saturday afternoon, but a video circulating on social media paints a different picture of what happened.
Police said a crowd of about 200 protesters gathered on Sidney Street in the South Side around 3:30 p.m. Saturday and marched for over three hours, making their way onto the Birmingham Bridge before ending where they started.
Throughout the protest, Pittsburgh Public Safety live tweeted what was happening to alert drivers and other residents of rolling closures surrounding the crowd.
As protesters made their way onto the Birmingham Bridge, located between the South Side and Uptown neighborhoods, public safety began reporting some issues.
Around 5 p.m., police said protesters “jumped over the barrier” and were trying to block both sides of the bridge. The southbound lanes opened up briefly, but officials said a “small group” of protesters refused to move and allow vehicles off the bridge.
It was during these moments on the bridge that an officer was seen on video shoving a protester. A protester shared this video on Facebook.
In the video, you can see two officers shoving a woman who was holding what appeared to be a cellphone in her hand. The second officer pushed her while holding a baton, knocking her back and causing her to fall.
“(They were) coming up the sidewalk, and then as soon as they got around to the turn to go onto the Birmingham Bridge, they started running,” said Jack Ohrman, who recorded the video. “I don’t know what they were running towards, who they were running after, but they were running and that’s when the girl was walking up.”
It’s unclear what led to the incident, but there was no mention of it in public safety’s reporting on Twitter.
“She got hit twice. The police backed off. It seemed like they knew what they did and that it was too far,” Ohrman said.
The protest ended around 7 p.m. on Hot Metal Street, and police said there were “no issues to report.”
“We don’t know enough to know what it was all about, but there certainly didn’t appear to be a threat or resistance or a justifiable purpose to use police force,” said Beth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board.
Pittsburgh police issued the following statement regarding what happened:
“Police are aware of the video and incident. As with all protests, City and Public Safety officials will review actions taken by officers, to include the review of footage from all body worn cameras, city cameras and other video. Pittsburgh Police have and will continue to respect protesters’ First Amendment rights. If any actions by any officers are determined to be inappropriate, the matter will immediately be turned over to the Office of Municipal Investigations for further review.”
Here’s a look at where the protest happened:
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