Pgh police review board asks for more info from community on video of protester pushed by police

By: - August 4, 2020 8:04 am

(Image via Pittsburgh City Paper)

By Ryan Deto

PITTSBURGH — On Sat. July 25, a protester was pushed twice by Pittsburgh Police officers on the Birmingham Bridge, according to a viral video on social media. The protester, participating in a Civil Saturday protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, was apparently recording video on their phone and walking towards the middle of the bridge, when police trotted to cut them off. On the second push, a Pittsburgh Police officer used a baton, and the protester was shoved with enough force into a jersey barrier that they fell to the ground.

Police claim that this protester jumped over a barrier, but a longer version of the video doesn’t show any barriers that would require jumping over onto the Birmingham Bridge. Jack Ohrman, who took video of the July 25 incident, says that there wasn’t a barrier.

“From what I could tell, she just walked up from the intersection where other protesters were gathered,” says Ohrman.

Beth Pittinger of the Pittsburgh’s Citizens Police Review Board says she has seen the clip and is seeking people to reach out to the board, which reviews potential police misconduct.

“I posted on [Facebook] asking people to come forward with info,” wrote Pittinger in an email to Pittsburgh City Paper. “[I] haven’t heard from anyone. We’re looking into it, but need the community’s help.”

Pittinger told WPXI on July 26 that the review board doesn’t know enough about the incident right now to open an investigation, but that “there certainly didn’t appear to be a threat or resistance or a justifiable purpose to use police force.”

In a statement about the incident, Pittsburgh Police said they were aware of the video, and “City and Public Safety officials will review actions taken by officers, to include the review of footage from all body worn cameras, city cameras, and other video. Pittsburgh Police have and will continue to respect protesters’ First Amendment rights.”

The video was posted early on July 26, just one day before Pittsburgh City Council was set to hold a fact-finding meeting on police reform. Several public officials, including Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert, were invited days beforehand to testify, but the meeting was abruptly canceled on July 27. According to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Ashley Murray, city council President Theresa Kail-Smith (D-West End) was asked by participating parties to postpone.

Pittsburgh City Councilors Erika Strassburger (D-Shadyside) and Bobby Wilson (D-North Side) both indicated on Twitter that the pushing in the video appeared without justification to use that level of force.

To provide information to the CPRB or to speak with someone at the board, email [email protected] or call 412-765-8023.

Ryan Deto is a reporter for Pittsburgh City Paper, where this story first appeared. 

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