Students, faculty and staff have raised concern about a widely-reported incident that took place Saturday afternoon as a march protesting police violence moved through Oakland. A protest marshal who was leading the group on a bicycle was apprehended by City of Pittsburgh police officers in plain clothes and put into an unmarked police vehicle. The University of Pittsburgh Police Department was not involved in the incident, as it noted in a Twitter post Saturday evening. The individual, who is not associated with Pitt, was later charged with two misdemeanors and released on his own recognizance.
Protests grew after video of the arrest was broadly shared on social media.
David Harris, the Sally Ann Semenko Endowed Chair and professor of Law and a nationally recognized expert on police behavior and regulation, expanded on those concerns. “The actions by City of Pittsburgh police officers on Saturday appeared to violate the city's own police guidelines on how to address non-permitted protests blocking intersections. The people of Pittsburgh and the Oakland community are due a full accounting of what happened from city and Pittsburgh police officials. If policy, guidelines or laws were not followed, those responsible must be held accountable,” Harris added.
On Sunday, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto called for an investigation of the incident.
University leaders echoed the importance of the investigation. “It’s critical that this incident get a thorough review. The police play a key role in maintaining safety, and must ensure they use tactics that respect and protect the rights of those who are exercising their freedom to speak out,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher.
Pitt’s Code of Student Conduct makes clear the University’s support for the right to protest on campus: “The University of Pittsburgh affirms the rights of community members to engage in peaceful, orderly and nondestructive demonstrations.”
Students seeking counseling or support in the wake of Saturday’s events can call the University Counseling Center at 412-648-7930 or visit the UCC website to make an appointment.
Pittwire will continue to follow this story.