Pittsburgh Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto has said he supports Black Lives Matter and defends protests in the city’s streets to “demand much-needed reforms to policing,” KDKA-TV reported.
But apparently not when such protests end up at his front door.
What are the details?
The station said a massive protest took place in front of Peduto’s residence Tuesday night and lasted all night. There was a siren going off, KDKA said, and protesters banged drums, blew horns, and used megaphones to express their desire for the mayor’s resignation after the Saturday arrest of 25-year-old Matthew Cartier, who was taken away in an unmarked van by plainclothes officers.
Image source: KDKA-TV video screenshot
Indeed, a number of protesters spent the night, the station said, adding that there were mattresses along the sidewalk.
Jesse Seager — co-owner of Point Brugge Cafe, located just steps from the action — told KDKA that at one point around 300 people were on the street.
“There definitely are neighbors that are scared,” Seager noted to the station. “I talked to multiple neighbors that left for the evening that have kids, that have elderly people in the house.”
The mayor wasn’t home at the time of the protest either, KDKA said.
Finally a line of officers stood near Peduto’s home around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday and declared the gathering an “unlawful assembly” — and that protesters could be arrested if they didn’t leave, the station said. Only about a dozen protesters were there at that point, KDKA added, and they all left about 30 minutes later.
It was the second time in just days protesters were seen in front of Peduto’s home, the station said, adding that many of them believe he doesn’t support their movement.
Image source: KDKA-TV video screenshot
What did the mayor have to say?
Peduto later released a statement about the protests, KDKA said:
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.
Police not happy with Peduto, either
Fraternal Order of Police President Robert Swartzwelder told the station he’s predicting massive police retirements in October when 268 officers become eligible, citing criticism from Peduto and District Attorney Stephen Zappala over how police have handled protests.
“They’re pinching the police in the middle, and they’re putting them in a precarious position where police officers feel that no matter what they do, they’re going to be criticized by the two highest-level politicians …” Swartzwelder told KDKA, adding that such a scenario “is going to change public opinion and force negative ramifications on the police officers, and some police officers are going to say, ‘OK, you don’t want us? We’ll go and do something else.'”
The station said police have allowed demonstrators access to city streets without permits, but added that even the American Civil Liberties Union said officers are within their rights to make arrests if protesters create disturbances or block vital streets and intersections and refuse to disperse.
“People need to — especially in this time — have an outlet to be able to exercise their right to express their displeasure with what’s going on in government,” Vic Waczak of the ACLU told KDKA. “But at the same time, I think everybody need to recognize that those rights are not unlimited.”
Back for more
As it happens, protesters returned to Peduto’s home Wednesday night — and this time the mayor talked to them, WTAE-TV reported.
One video showed him speaking, but what he was saying couldn’t be heard over protesters chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, Mayor Peduto has got to go!”
More from the station:
Public safety officials said the exchange between Peduto and protesters ended in an impasse on Wednesday evening. Peduto went back inside his house after the conversation.
The group of protesters remained outside of his house chanting in the street after the conversation before they returned to Mellon Park.
(H/T: Hot Air)