Pittsburgh churches

Peaceful demonstration for George Floyd “hijacked by a small group” which makes the event violent

A woman raises her middle finger at Pittsburgh Police on horseback as water bottles are thrown at officers. (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

By Brittany Hailer
Current Pittsburgh Contributing Writer
[email protected]

At 2:30 p.m., the Pittsburghers gathered for a “Justice for George Floyd” rally at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Sixth Street. From there, a choreographed march of thousands of men, women and children of all races echoed through downtown Pittsburgh. The crowd chanted “I can’t breathe” and “Whose streets?” Our streets.

The signs read “White silence = violence; “White People: You should be here”, and a painted guitar said, “Don’t choke those songs of grief.”

At around 3 p.m., organizers gave an elegy, urging the crowd to repeat the chorus, “I breathe for them” after reading the names of other black men and women murdered by police: George Floyd, Antwon Rose, Breonna Taylor , Philando Castille, among the others.

Most of the protesters wore masks and many had children. People handed out free fruit, granola bars, water and face masks. Police kept their distance for much of the protest until crowds gathered on Lower Hill outside the Epiphany Catholic Church in Washington Place.

Previously congested for most of the march, crowds spread down the low hill around 4:30 pm Five mounted policemen stood near a police car parked in front of the church. As the crowd continued to spread, protesters flooded the streets and, as a result, surrounded the mounted police.

George Floyd protest in Pittsburgh

Hundreds of protesters march through the streets of Pittsburgh to demand justice for George Floyd (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

This is where the tensions mounted. A small group of protesters began to throw water bottles at the mounted officers and their horses. Others urged protesters to stop. Police held on for as long as they could, before rushing into the crowd – almost plowing dozens – as they fled to safety.

George Floyd protest in Pittsburgh

A protester throws a baseball bat at the front window of a Pittsburgh police car (Photo courtesy of Jake Mysliwczyk)

Their abandoned post, white protestors (despite the plea of ​​black protesters to stop) smashed the cruiser windows and spray painted it. Two other men jumped on it and raised their fists. The vehicle was later set on fire. There seemed to be a division of feelings in the crowd: many clapped with their fists in the air. The protest organizers insisted, “It’s time to go home. “

George Floyd protest in Pittsburgh

A Pittsburgh police car is set on fire outside the PPG Paints Arena on Saturday afternoon (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

As more and more people got nervous, they pushed the women and children away from the vehicle, “Come back!” they warned. A man shouted, “There is ammunition in this car! It will explode!

Dozens of people ran to the nearby parking lot where the protest turned into a dark vigil. The silent crowd watched as the vehicle continued to burn. Black smoke billowed out as the wreckage of the car erupted and ruptured with explosions.

George Floyd protest in Pittsburgh

Black smoke fills the sky as a Pittsburgh police car burns by the side of the road (Photo courtesy of Jake Mysliwczyk)

From that impression, downtown Pittsburgh was on lockdown and a curfew put in place at 8:30 a.m.

“To come back!” people urged.

And others: “Where are we going?

Several individuals attempted to block Washington Place with sandbags and signs and a few minutes later, the rest of the group standing next to it removed the barricade.

Rumors started to circulate: “The police are coming by bus” and “They are going to gas us”. Across the parking lot there was a silence, a sort of shock as to how things had turned sour and where to go from here.

A black man in his thirties sat on the floor and said, “If they gass me, I can’t do it.” I won’t be able to breathe anymore.

At a press conference not long ago, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert said: “It’s a shame that they took advantage of the death of George Floyd. It was a peaceful demonstration hijacked by a small group that brought young people into the group. White men dressed in anarchist outfits.

The Current will have more on this story in the coming days.

George Floyd protest in Pittsburgh

Protesters fill the intersection of Fifth Ave and Washington Place (Photo courtesy of Jake Mysliwczyk)

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