This rally, "F.J.E (Freedom Justice Equality) Wednesdays," was organized by local LGBTQ groups TransYOUniting and PGH LGBTQ+ Coalition, and organizers said it will be the first of many. The groups plan to rally every Wednesday until their demands are met. This comes on the heels of recent police arrests and use of force against protesters by the Pittsburgh Police.
Dena Stanley, of TransYOUniting, said it's frustrating that Pittsburgh Police has so few female officers and officers of color in its ranks and in leadership roles. She said some of the groups' demands are for all police officers in the state to wear body cameras (in solidarity with Dannielle Brown), that the Wilkinsburg Police Department should be disbanded (in solidarity with Romir Talley), and the state should amend the Pennsylvania code so that Section 508, which details police use of force rules, be removed.
The group’s other demands, according to their social media pages, include making the Pittsburgh Police’s Civil Affairs team, which helps to manage protests and other civil issues, full-time and all Black; a seat on the Community Police Review Board; mandate that the Pittsburgh Police hire and promote more Black officers; and, to drop the charges and citations against Nique Croft, Lorenzo Rulli, and Stanley, who are all prominent Black Lives Matters protesters who have been charged with felonies in connection to demonstrations.
NEW: Protesters and bike marshals with the groups @transyouniting and @Pghlgbtq have shut down Grant St. in front of Pittsburgh’s city-County building. They plan to be here every Wednesday until a list of police-reform demand are met. pic.twitter.com/UB4j6fYvLV— Ryan Deto (@RyanDeto) August 26, 2020
Dalen Michael said that protesters should not have charges against them and said “one of our protesters has charges for an event that they weren’t even at.”
At today’s rally, Jimmy Reise spoke to the crowd about the need for stamina in the protest movement, and how it will likely take a while to have their demands met. But he said that staying vigilant is necessary in order to make change.
“I am tired, but nothing is more tiring than having these motherfuckers dictate how I move,” said Reise. “This needs to grow until our demands are met.”
police lied and said the park was closed and then used pepper spray and other less-lethal weapons on protesters.
Bike marshals blocked off each end of Grant Street for the duration of today's rally, and the crowd gathered in the street to hear speeches.
Michael emphasized the need for the rally to be bigger next week. “Each Wednesday, you should bring someone else you know,” said Michael. “I would like to see this double.”
Stanley also encouraged rally goers to bring friends and grow the crowd. She also said that the rally will be emphasizing voting rights moving forward. She condemned President Donald Trump for his attacks on Black and trans people. She said momentum is needed to vote him out of office, but also criticized Peduto. The mayor has faced increased calls from protesters and some residents to resign, but he told WESA that he intends to run again in 2021.
“We need people like Peduto out,” said Stanley.
The rally ended after a little over an hour.