At a community forum held to address the beating of 17-year-old Jordan Miles by three Pittsburgh City police officers, tensions rose when Beth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizens Police Review Board, suggested police brutality is not only an issue plaguing the African-American community.

COME TOGETHER— Beth Pittinger calls for everyone to support the Citizens Police Review Board.

“Victims of police brutality are not just Black, and that is not diminishing the history,” Pittinger said. “I’m suggesting that to say that when we come together in our city, that is when we have achieved things.”

After detailing the history of the CPRB at the forum hosted by the Community Empowerment Association Feb. 13, Pittinger pleaded for the community to support the board. She said it is important for everyone to attend meetings addressing police brutality, whether the victim is White or Black.

“We’re not going to get people to pay attention unless we show them when it’s one of us, it’s all of us,” Pittinger said.

CEA founder Rashad Byrdsong protested Pittinger’s statements and said police brutality is a uniquely Black issue because African-Americans are more frequently attacked. He also took offense with Pittinger’s claim that African-Americans do not come out in support of White victims of police brutality.

“Don’t try to put that guilt on us that we don’t respond, because we come together. We have always supported human rights. And we’re not going to apologize for representing Black people today,” Byrdsong said. “Every time we invite certain people, they come here complaining like we haven’t done something.”

Many at the forum also expressed concern over the city’s process for appointing members to the CPRB because Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and City Council are responsible for selecting them. They worried the seven volunteers were not representative of the African-American community.

Byrdsong opened the forum by listing a number of demands to ensure justice is found for Miles and also to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. Among them was the demand that the three police officers be fired and indicted for attempted murder and torture as well as the demand that all officers who have demonstrated an established pattern of abuse be terminated.

“Although it is tragic that such a model youth was exposed to such brutality—it is not just his academic and social achievement that should grant him justice; it’s his innocence,” Byrdsong said. “We are standing behind Jordan Miles, but also behind all of those more troubled youth who have continuously been brutally abused then were granted no sympathy.  All of our community members deserve dignified treatment.”

Others agreed that the issue of police brutality should be broadened beyond Miles. Some said in order to sustain a campaign against police brutality they must focus on the African-American community at large and not one individual.

“People are getting beat in the Black community everyday,” Byrdsong said. “They just didn’t have good grades, or go to CAPA, or have a mom like Jordan Miles.”

Guests invited to the forum included Rep. Jim Ferlo, District 9 City Councilman Ricky Burgess, County Executive Dan Onorato, U.S. Attorney Robert Cessan, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Pittsburgh Police Chief Nathan Harper, Director of Public Safety Michael Huss, NAACP President M. Gayle Moss, Urban League President Esther Bush, B-PEP Co-chair Tim Stevens, District 6 Councilman Daniel Lavelle, District 10 County Councilman Bill Robinson, District 13 County Councilwoman Amanda Green, Rep. Jake Wheatley,  Rep. Joseph Preston, and FBI Agent Michael Rodriguez. Of those invited, no one attended and Byrdsong said Zappala was the only one who responded. Approximately 30 people attended the event.

“When a crisis occurs, like the one we’re dealing with today, none of the leadership comes out to discuss it,” Byrdsong said.

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