PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — After a second consecutive night of protests outside Mayor Bill Peduto’s home, police say they used pepper spray and arrested a man at Mellon Park on Wednesday night.
After front stoop talks between the mayor and protesters broke down, police waited and declared an “unlawful assembly” around 10 p.m. The group of protesters marched along an exit route, set up by police, to Mellon Park.
In the police report, law enforcement says protesters blocked the intersection at Fifth Avenue and Beechwood Boulevard and pointed lasers at their eyes, which they say have been used by protesters in other cities in attempts to blind officers.
Police say they deployed OC pepper spray when a woman protester struck officers with an umbrella and then arrested 26-year-old Ian Frazier, who they say rammed one officer with his bicycle.
But an attorney who represents the protesters says it was the police who forced the confrontation, telling protesters to go into the park and then telling them the park was off-limits.
“When you funnel people into Mellon Park, only to tell them that is now the unlawful assembly and then you advance on them, that’s an entirely different situation,” said attorney Paul Jubas.
“So it appears the police are lying,” he added.
Jubas says protesters also reported being gassed and hit with projectiles.
“We don’t know what projectiles were used. We don’t know what chemicals were used, but we are confident both we used,” Jubas said.
Back on Hasting Street, residents like Jim Niesen said police have shown restraint in dealing with protesters over the past two nights.
“They were respectful, they were friendly, they were patient,” Niesen said.
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But Councilwoman Erika Strassburger, who was at Wednesday night’s protest outside the mayor’s house, says the situation at Mellon Park shows the need for de-escalation training.
“I have concerns about some of the tactics used. Pepper spray, some of the force that was used, and I just think there needs to be some major changes across the board about how we handle protests,” she said.
“I’m calling for immediate change to police policy regarding use of force. Otherwise, I will work with my colleagues to introduce legislation to that effect,” Strassburger said on Twitter.
I’m calling for immediate change to police policy regarding use of force. Otherwise, I will work with my colleagues to introduce legislation to that effect.
To those protesting: my door is open if you want to work toward change together.
— Erika Strassburger (@erikastrassbrgr) August 20, 2020
Pittsburgh Public Safety and the mayor’s office said they are reviewing the action of police and protesters.