All of this happened more than an hour before Pittsburgh’s officially declared curfew at 8:30 p.m.
Some protesters stayed, starting to throw water bottles and what appeared to be rocks at the police, who had formed a line and continued to advance, then eventually pushed out the crowd of protesters and journalists from Centre Avenue.
Videos on social media corroborate this sequence of events. TribLive reported that rocks began to fly at police first, who responded with what observers believed to be tear gas, but police say was smoke. However, video and photos show that a rubber bullet was fired first at the protester closest to the police line. Then, protesters responded by throwing objects and police fired smoke canisters. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Andrew Goldstein reported that protesters started to throw objects at the police after some kind of bang went off.
Some protesters treated their faces with milk and other liquids to counter the effects of the canisters.
At around 8 p.m., CP News Editor Ryan Deto witnessed at least four people that were arrested by police. Protesters didn’t confront the police line before the rubber bullets and smoke were fired. One protester got within 20 feet of the police line but did not get closer, then was shot and hit with a rubber bullet from that distance.
In a tweet, Pittsburgh Public Safety Department says that a "small group broke off from peaceful march [and] broke windows and threw items at police at Centre and Negley. Officers issued several orders to disperse. Group ignored. Police used smoke and then gas to disperse group."
Centre between Negley and Euclid is closed down by police. Looks like they have made at least 2 arrests. pic.twitter.com/lrlIx1cMxK— Ryan Deto (@RyanDeto) June 2, 2020
However, it appears the police fired a rubber bullet first at the crowds. The crowd of protesters also told a man who broke some windows on Penn Avenue not to do so, and it appears he was not part of the protest group, and he didn't join people in marching down Centre Avenue. During a press conference, Pittsburgh Police officials say that protesters threw rocks and other objects at police officers before they issues orders to disperse.
Pittsburgh Public Safety director Wendell Hissrich said that nine officers were injured, but none seriously. Hissrich also said that two protesters arrested complained of injuries.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said that it was "smoke, not gas" that was used to disperse the crowd. CP saw a man whose entire face was red and tears falling down his face after the canisters were fired near the protesters.
Small group that broke off from peaceful march broke windows and threw items at police at Centre and Negley. Officers issued several orders to disperse. Group ignored. Police used smoke and then gas to disperse group. https://t.co/gbnzbliIzk— Pgh Public Safety (@PghPublicSafety) June 1, 2020
The 100 or so protesters who were confronted by police were initially part of a larger protest that marched through East Liberty for more than three hours, where police officers were seen clearing the streets so that the protesters could march without disruption. That crowd included more than 1,000, who shared passionate speeches and rally cries and were left alone by police.
The three-hour long marched snaked through East Liberty and included pleas for participants to vote and to pressure their public officials to change the state’s use-of-force laws. At the beginning of the march, a woman shouted into the megaphone, “If you touch a Black business, I will personally fuck you up.”
At this time CP left the scene.