Ninety-degree heat did not deter those joining in the People’s Convention from calling for economic, social and racial justice in the “Still We Rise” march that took two hours to wind its way from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to Station Square.
Along the way, more than 1,500 marchers carried signs and shouted their displeasure with UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh, the Federal Reserve Bank, the U.S. Department of Justice and Sen. Pat Toomey, who said he stayed away from his Station Square office because “It was not a good place to be.”
The event brought activist groups from across the Northeast to the city, and throughout the march, they were escorted by Pittsburgh police.
Despite one banner that said “Fire Killer Cops,” Chief Cameron McLay said the marchers were not agitating, and remained focused on their cause.
Though planned weeks ago to, in part, address concerns escalating distrust between police and minority groups nationwide, with the shootings this week of Louisiana resident Alton Sterling and Minnesota resident Philando Castile—both African Americans killed at the hands of police, followed by five Dallas police officers being killed by a Black sniper, the march could have turned chaotic.
At the Allegheny County Courthouse, protesters yelled, “Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell.” Still, there was no hostility toward the police.
Bishop David Zubik even led a special mass in Oakland to pray for peace following the week’s events, saying it is “imperative to tear down our own prejudices.”
“Yesterday was Dallas, Wednesday was Baton Rouge, Tuesday was St. Paul. And Monday, July 4th our own Wood Street. Violence continues,” Zubik said during the sermon.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald released a joint press statement regarding the violence in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas.
“Today, our nation is in mourning for the deaths of so many in our community. We are hurt, angry, confused and in pain as we struggle to cope with the violence plaguing us,” it read. “Our answer to the violence in our community cannot be more violence. Pittsburgh’s strength has always been in coming together to solve issues and supporting each other in times of need. We rely on that strength and we need it now more than ever.
“We have great faith that all of us—residents, communities, law enforcement, activists—have the capacity to come together to heal from our pain and anger, no matter how difficult that may be for us. We can do more to honor the lives of those who were killed by working together to stop the violence and have a more peaceful community.”
Peduto and Members of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Action Network have, respectively called for a Peace Summit, and a dialog on policing, racism and equity. Neither had yet been scheduled.
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