Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said Wednesday he was calling for an independent investigation into a Monday protest in the city’s East Liberty neighborhood.
Protesters and reporters at the scene of the protest said police fired tear gas at what had been a peaceful protest with about 1,000 people participating. Public safety officials first said that smoke was used to disperse the crowd, later adding that gas was in fact used, claiming that some in the crowd had started throwing rocks at officers.
Peduto wrote a letter to the Citizens Police Review Board and Office of Municipal Investigations requesting a “full investigation into the actions in East Liberty” on June 1, to be conducted in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP’s Pittsburgh branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“For the past 36 hours, I have studied best practices of less lethal crowd dispersion, I have read countless comments on social media and viewed first-hand video, photographs and accounts. The Public Safety Director provided me with the written official transcripts of all Command operations during that day and I have talked with every person in the Command rank who was on the ground or in the Command Center,” Peduto said in a statement. “Without question, there is a difference of opinion about what happened that day and the appropriateness of the actions of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.”
The demonstration was one of several in Pittsburgh and across the country over the past few days protesting the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Police officer Derek Chauvin was seen on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he gasped for air. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Three other officers at the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. All four officers were fired.
Correspondent Kim Lyons covers western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh for the Capital-Star. Follow her on Twitter @SocialKimLy.