Video shows Pittsburgh Police arresting and pinning woman to ground in East Liberty before deploying tear gas at onlookers | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Video shows Pittsburgh Police arresting and pinning woman to ground in East Liberty before deploying tear gas at onlookers

click to enlarge Video shows Pittsburgh Police arresting and pinning woman to ground in East Liberty before deploying tear gas at onlookers
Pittsburgh police arresting woman on Beatty Street in East Liberty on June 1
The police response to the protests in East Liberty on Mon., June 1 has come under intense scrutiny. The protest ended with Pittsburgh Police confronting marchers on Centre Avenue in East Liberty and firing sponge rounds and tear gas at protesters. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, after initially backing the police claims that officers were responding to acts violence initiated by protesters, admitted a few days later that those accounts “were wrong” and announced investigations into Monday’s actions.

But the march on Centre Avenue might not be the only action showing potential police misconduct. A video sent to Pittsburgh City Paper shows a woman arrested by Pittsburgh Police on Beatty Street in East Liberty on June 1, in which she is brought to the ground and eventually pinned on the sidewalk. She says in the video that she doesn’t know why she is being arrested. Police then roll a tear gas canister at onlookers who are shouting about the arrest.
The source who took this video spoke to CP, but requested anonymity in fear of retaliation. Last week, police charged two women who filmed in the events on Centre Avenue with misdemeanor charges of throwing water bottles and felony riot charges; the women deny they threw anything. CP has edited the video to black out a section where the source’s face is shown and muted the sound for brief time when the source shares their husband’s name.

The video shows a woman speaking with police, who are standing around five young people who have apparently been detained and are sitting on the curb at the corner of Beatty and Rippey streets. The woman stops short of the officers by about 10-15 feet. Then an officer approaches her, followed by another. The officer points his finger close to the woman’s face while they are apparently talking. After about five seconds, the officers then grabs the woman by the shoulder.

Then the woman appears to pull away, at which point a small struggle ensures and the woman is brought to the ground. She is handcuffed while sitting on the ground, and asks, “Why am I being arrested?”

When two officers apparently attempt to bring her to her feet, they all appear to fall over. Then officers pin the woman's chest down against the sidewalk.

Throughout the entire encounter, a group of onlookers is standing across the street on the other side to Beatty Street, near the entrance to the McDonald’s parking lot. As the woman is getting arrested and pinned down, many of the onlookers start to shout. Some yell “easy!” and “get off of her!”

About 30 seconds after officers first apprehend the woman, another officer picks up a tear gas canister and rolls it towards the onlookers. This is when the crowd disperses, but after backing far enough away, the video shows the tear gas releasing into the air.

The source who sent the video to CP says they attended the march that took place that afternoon in East Liberty, but returned home at about 6 p.m. At 7:50 p.m. they left the house and began to walk around East Liberty’s business district, after hearing the conflict that occurred on Centre Avenue.

Police set an 8:30 curfew on June 1.

The source also sent the full version of the video to CP, which is about 13 minutes. They say they started filming at 7:57, which CP confirmed with another time-stamped video that was taken by the source’s husband. That would put the arrest of the woman at about 8:10 p.m., which is 20 minutes before the announced curfew.

The source says they overhead some of the people who were detained on the curb say they were just walking home before they were arrested.

“People were detained on the ground before curfew, and I didn't see them get arrested,” says the source, who said their instinct was to observe, as is their right.

The source says that about 15 people were watching from across the street. The video shows there were at least five police officers present on Beatty Street.

Prior to filming, the source says the woman asked the officers about the people arrested on the sidewalk, then she walked away for some time, and then returned.

Then the source says the woman asked the police, “Why are they arresting them?” and “What did they do?”

After this is when the officer approaches the woman and apprehends her. The source says the encounter showed that the police “are not concerned with citizen welfare.”

CP sent the video to Allegheny County Public Defender Lisa Middleman, who is working with a pro-bono team of lawyers to defend the people arrested during or shortly after the protests on May 30 and June 1.

Middleman says that it is difficult to comment on the legality of anything without more context for the video clip. However, she says the clip itself does not depict any crimes committed by the individuals being arrested and gassed. Middleman adds that there is no reason the woman was arrested unless the police had a probable cause to arrest her, like failure to disperse.

The Pittsburgh Public Safety Department did not respond to request for comment for this story.

Middleman says police can arrest people for failure to disperse before curfew if they are acting disorderly in a group of three or more people and/or if an order is given to disperse and a person knowingly fails to obey that order.

The source says they have shared the video and a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. CP also sent the video to Pittsburgh’s Community Police Review Board, which is reviewing several videos in relation to the protests on May 30 and June 1. CPRB did not return comment on this specific video.

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By Mars Johnson