July 4 rally Downtown calls for changes to Pennsylvania law to combat police brutality

Hundreds of protestors marched for more than three hours Saturday from Market Square and then across Downtown to advocate for policy changes following long-held frustration with police brutality. 

“I know today is around 95 degrees, but I’m gonna still need you to come with the same energy as always,” 18-year-old organizer Nick Anglin said at the beginning of the event. 

The protest, part of Black Young, & Educated’s “Civil Saturdays” series that began in response to the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, brought together a multi-racial group of people who marched and chanted from 3 p.m. into the evening. Protestors primarily urged changing Section 508 of the Pennsylvania statutes, which details when a police officer can use force. Activists argue the language is overly broad, allowing police to carelessly use force. 

The demonstration engendered plenty of emotion throughout the day, and some speakers teared up. After an especially emotional eight minute and 46 second moment of silence to remember Floyd toward the end of the day, one activist suggested the crowd destress by screaming as loudly as possible. Multiple long, guttural screams ensued. 

The group regularly stopped to allow for speakers to give remarks and for individuals to give out water, sports drinks and snacks. 

Some protestors noted the date: Independence Day. 

“I want to thank you all for coming out today because you realize that July 4th is not a day to celebrate until all of us have freedom,” Anglin said. 

Dena Stanley, head of local activist group Trans YOUniting, spoke about the need for diversity in Black Lives Matter protests. 

“This is what I like to see,” Stanley said.

Teen-led demonstration outside the City-County Building turns into a march through downtown Pittsburgh

About 200 people took to the street Saturday afternoon in front of the City-County Building Downtown for a protest organized by Black, Young and Educated that turned into a march by the evening. 

The event continued the daily string of protests that has gone on for three weeks in Pittsburgh following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis. 

This demonstration is part of the Civil Saturday series of protests from BYE, an activist group made up of local teenagers. Much of the day’s demonstration focused on Black transgender people and Black intersectionality. 

Nick Anglin, 18, read the names of every Black trans woman killed in 2020, followed by a 16-minute moment of silence — one minute for each name read. 

Local activist and rapper Jasiri X spoke at the event, focusing on reading, explaining and rallying the crowd behind the list of 12 demands The Allegheny County Black Activist/Organizer Collective presented to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald this week; the list includes calls to defund police, disband private police departments and end cash bail. Jasiri X referenced the City-County Building lighting up green, red and yellow in honor of Juneteenth when he explained he wants to see concrete policy change. 

“We’ve had enough symbols,” he said. “We need some substance.”

Much of the event was spent doing organized chants. A few times, those with megaphones would instruct each side of the crowd to chant separate, related phrases.

Dozens march in Homewood to support Black communities

Led by a group of mothers who have lost loved ones to violence, more than 100 individuals gathered Saturday in Homewood for a march in support of local Black communities. 

“Today, we’re being accountable for Homewood killing Homewood, and the healing that will be done by taking a hard line, looking in the mirror, and saying, ‘enough is enough,’” Dina Blackwell, one of the event’s organizers, said to the crowd before the march. 

The demonstrators gathered outside of Westinghouse High School Saturday morning and marched into the afternoon to House of Manna, where food was served for the crowd. 

Blackwell and others referenced Sean Reese, a 34-year-old man who died in a shooting in Homewood late last month, when discussing the purpose of this march. They also spoke about George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and other unarmed Black people who have been killed across the country, but the focus of this demonstration was the violence in Black communities such as Homewood. 

Carol Speaks, founder of Liberation Ukombozi, a group against mass incarceration, and a Homewood resident who has had loved ones killed, helped organize the march. 

“We got people that grew up together, you kill your best friend who you slept in the crib with and ate with every day,” Speaks said. “We need this to stop. How can we get control of the police brutality when we being brutal to ourselves?” 

Wynona Hawkins-Harper, another organizer and founder of JAMAR Place of Peace, lost her son Jamar Hawkins in a shooting in Penn Hills. “We are constantly sitting back, watching this Black on Black death, but we are not doing anything to correct our behavior to save our children’s life,” she said.

(Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

Governor addresses weekend protests across the state

Gov. Tom Wolf affirmed the concerns of the protestors across Pennsylvania responding to the killing of George Floyd and encouraged them to act peacefully on Sunday. “I urge every one of these demonstrations to be peaceful. I urge everyone to have respect for the communities and our neighbors,” Wolf said in a press conference. “And I urge all of us to continue to call out injustice. We should be doing that.” 

Throughout the day Saturday, protestors took to the streets not just in Minneapolis, the site of Floyd’s killing, but across the country.

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