Teenagers lead peaceful sit-in at Bakery Square in Pittsburgh's East End | Pittsburgh City Paper

Teenagers lead peaceful sit-in at Bakery Square in Pittsburgh's East End

click to enlarge Teenagers lead peaceful sit-in at Bakery Square in Pittsburgh's East End
CP photo: Hannah Lynn
Saturday marked the eighth consecutive day of action in Pittsburgh in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, the killing of Breonna Taylor by Louisville police, and other incidents of police brutality across the country. The protest, a sit-in at Bakery Square in Pittsburgh's Larimer neighborhood, was organized by Black, Young & Educated (BYE), a collective of teenagers, including both current high school students and recent graduates. Organizers say the event, called Civil Saturdays, will continue every Saturday until their goals are met.

At least 1,000 people gathered around 3 p.m. in Bakery Square, an area that includes a Google office, Anthropologie clothing store, and newly built condos and apartment buildings. The crowd then moved into the intersection of Penn Avenue and Bakery Square Boulevard, where protesters formed a large circle around the organizers. While previous events this week have led marches through town, Civil Saturdays mostly stayed in one place.

Nicholas Anglin, one of the organizers, says BYE chose this format to give everyone a break from all the walking, while still making their voices heard. They also specifically chose Bakery Square as a location because, "they gentrified the fuck out of it," says Anglin. "I don't even remember what Bakery Square used to look like."

During the sit-in, several people took turns speaking, including Jasiri X, founder of 1Hood Media. He noted the history of Bakery Square and its surrounding area, which he says was once a predominantly Black community. “Gentrification is also violence against Black people," he said.

Mostly, the speaking was led by the teen organizers, who led chants of Floyd and Taylor's names, as well as Tony McDade, a trans man who was killed by police in Tallahassee, Fla., and Antwon Rose Jr., who was killed by police in the borough of East Pittsburgh two years ago this month.

The organizers noted that June is Pride Month, and that it's important to protect everybody, including the LGBTQ community.

Along with various speakers, the sit-in included an 8-minute and 45-second moment of silence, in honor of the length of time the Minneapolis police officer kneeled on Floyd's neck. There were also poem readings and more chants and demonstrators sang.

As the sit-in wrapped up, an organizer who was part of pulling together last Saturday's protests thanked the crowd for continuing to show up, saying "it's not a sprint, it's a marathon."

As other organizers took over from BYE, they told the crowd they would be marching down Penn Avenue together, to prevent a repeat of what happened with the protests last Monday, where police escalated a situation as protesters were leaving by firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

While some protesters left, most stayed and walked down Penn Avenue, as police vehicles blocked traffic ahead. The crowd turned onto S. Highland Avenue before ending up at the intersection of Centre Avenue and and S. Negley Avenue in East Liberty where the crowd stopped to form a circle for another moment of silence.

This was the same area where police used tear gas and rubber bullets on Monday. While there were police stationed on the streets surrounding the intersection, there were no major incidents today.

The Civil Saturdays sit-ins will continue every week, though possibly at a different location, until the amendment of Pennsylvania Code Title 18, Section 508, the code that details use-of-force for police officers. A recently created change.org petition to change "the determination of whether deadly force is justified from a subjective standard to an objective one."