Protests against police brutality have been ongoing in Pittsburgh since the end of May, but in the past couple weeks, Pittsburgh Police have used force against protesters by responding to peaceful actions with a jump-out arrest of a bike marshal, employing pepper spray and projectiles, and using apparent kettling tactics to control crowds of Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
After a bike marshal at an Aug. 15 protest was arrested by plain clothes police officers and taken into an unmarked van, protesters began showing up outside Peduto's home in Point Breeze several days in a row. At an Aug. 19 protest, where organizers engaged in a lengthy discussion with Peduto outside his home, the night ended with dispersal orders from the police, who ordered protesters to walk to nearby Mellon Park, and then lied about the park being closed. The police then deployed chemical spray and projectiles on the protesters in Mellon Park.
On Aug. 15, after the bike marshal arrest incident, Peduto tweeted that although protesters have constitutional rights, those rights "have restrictions."
"I saw on Twitter so many people were saying the right to shut down streets is a constitutional right protected by the first amendment, and it is not," Peduto told WESA. "The right to shutdown streets is codified by municipalities and that codification is based on obtaining a permit."
Just a quick reminder of Constitutional rights. They have restrictions. The right to assemble is a guaranteed right, the right to shut down public streets, is a privilege. That privilege is sanctioned by laws and codes. In Pittsburgh, we worked w ACLU & CPRB to create our codes.— bill peduto (@billpeduto) August 16, 2020
According to the ACLU, protesters do not need a permit to march in the streets, as long as marchers don’t obstruct car or pedestrian traffic. If protesters lack a permit, police officers can ask people to move to the side of the street or sidewalk for safety reasons.
Peduto went on to say that although he didn't condoned the tactics used by police to arrest the bike marshal on Aug. 15, he did agree that the bike marshal's actions merited arrest.
"[The bike marshal] was told seven times that he was violating the law. Eventually he was arrested," said Peduto. "Do I support the arrest? Yes. Do I support the tactics that that arrest was made under? No."
The arrest tactic was widely criticized by experts. Additionally, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, said the bike marshal's actions "appear to be a summary offense at best” and merited a ticket, not an arrest.
In the interview, Peduto defended his statements and actions, and insisted that, despite criticism from both ends of the spectrum, he is only doing his job as mayor.
"My job is not to be an activist. My job is not to be a police officer. My job is to find a way to bridge the activists with the police and build a better city," he said.
When asked by Gavin whether he plans to run for reelection next year, Peduto asserted that he does, and that he wants to follow through plans he's already set into motion.
"[There are] so many seeds we have planted over these six and a half years that I feel that it is necessary to seek another term in order to see them take root."
The full interview can be heard here: After Criticisms, Peduto Says Changes Are Being Made In Responses To Protests