PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Activists in the Pittsburgh area are contending that Public Safety’s report of events describing the plain-clothes officers’ arrest of a protester is misleading.
Members from Black, Young & Educated as well as the Allegheny County Black Activist/Organizer Collective held a press conference to specifically address Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s response on Monday.
The president of Black, Young & Educated said that Peduto has not reached out to her organization and has never attended a Civil Saturday protest.
“He has been vilifying protesters since the beginning of the protests in the summer and standing at the defense of police officers. We clearly see where our Mayor stands in this movement, and we’d like to change that,” said Treasure Palmer, president of the organization.
Another member of the organization said that Public Safety has not reached out to their organization since June 27.
“It is completely disgusting and heartbreaking how a city that I grew up in can blatantly lie and attempt to vilify a collective group of young adults who are trying to better the future for Black youth and Black families in this city in order to cover their Civil Affairs’ unit subpar job performance,” said Nicholas Anglin, CEO of Black, Young & Educated.
Protest organizers say 25-year-old Matthew Cartier was serving as a marshal. So he was tasked with making sure protesters stayed safe as marshals have been since the protests started in June. Organizers say he picks up the slack where police are lacking.
Police allege he wouldn’t stop blocking intersections after they advised him to stop. Video of his arrest near South Bouquet Street and Forbes Avenue has gone viral.
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Anglin said that in his conversation with the Civil Affairs unit, that they had talked to him with a “condescending attitude.” Anglin also mentioned that protesters had not forgotten about the protest that occurred in East Liberty on June 1 of this year.
“Contradictory to what Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said, the people only putting protesters at risk is the police,” Anglin added. “The police were the ones that teargassed innocent protesters in East Liberty on June 1, which they turned around and lied about also. I was in that crowd. I saw children screaming while their eyes were burning. I was running in fear that day, from police armed as though they were going to war, using tactics to corner us and arrest us although we were nothing but peaceful.”
Anglin also referred to Cartier’s arrest as a “public kidnapping” that was similar in style to detentions of protesters seen in Portland.
Black, Young & Educated further maintained that they had no obligation to communicate their protest routes to Public Safety, an issue Public Safety specifically cited in yesterday’s press conference. Black, Young & Educated also said this was the first time they had observed an arrest of a protester like this and that they were expecting a larger turnout to this week’s Civil Saturday.
Peduto and several Public Safety officials held a press conference on Sunday to address the arrest. Within that press conference, Public Safety officials called what happened a “low-visibility” arrest and that it was done for the safety of motorists and protesters, while Peduto said he has “serious concerns” about the arrest and said that he was “uncomfortable” when he first viewed the social media video that has been circulating all weekend.
The video shows officers in plain clothes arrest Cartier during a Civil Saturday demonstration and stuff him into unmarked vans. The imagery of the video initially sparked fears that federal agents were being deployed in Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh Public Safety officials confirmed the people in plain clothes were Pittsburgh Police officers on Saturday.
Peduto released a separate official statement on Monday, where he categorically condemned the arrest:
“It is hard to find the words for how livid I was after seeing the online videos of the disturbing arrest at Saturday’s protest. I have taken the time to review all the video and information that has been made available to me. As Mayor, I will never tolerate these tactics being used at peaceful protests again.”
On Monday, District Attorney Stephen Zappala responded to Saturday’s arrest:
“In 2005, I requested that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court change the rules of criminal procedure to allow for more low level offenses to proceed by summons, the equivalent of being written a traffic citation, rather than by arrest. On Saturday, Pittsburgh Police, directed by the Public Safety Director and the Mayor, chose to proceed by arrest and criminal complaint on charges that should have been handled via summons. While I appreciate the right to free speech and peaceful protest as afforded by the constitution, I also appreciate the inconvenience and potential danger created by blocking access to roadways, intersections and possibly hospital entrances. Pending the review of body worn camera footage which my office obtained earlier today, this matter appears to be a summary offense at best and should be handled by the Pittsburgh Police Department in a summary hearing.”