It was a polarizing and tiring day in Pittsburgh after peaceful protests soured late afternoon into violent incidents uptown and near PPG Paints Arena. Peaceful protestors saved a KDKA photojournalist who was under assault from violent protestors late Saturday afternoon. Penguins President and CEO David Morehouse also joined the effort.
In the chaos of the violence, accounts have differed slightly.
The photojournalist, Ian Smith said via his Twitter account that he was attacked by protestors and stomped and kicked repeatedly. The bloodied Smith also suffered severe bruises. A different group of objectors dragged him away from the violent mob. Morehouse witnessed the events, then provided shelter to Smith inside PPG Paints Arena.
“I’m was attacked by protestors downtown by the arena. They stomped and kicked me,” Smith wrote. “I’m bruised and bloody but alive.”
The photojournalist’s camera was destroyed in the attack, and he is now in the hospital. Among property vandalized was the Mario Lemieux statue near the People’s gate, where the assault took place.
KDKA radio reporter Marty Griffin initially reported Morehouse dragged Smith away from the assault into PPG Paints Arena. Later Saturday night, KDKA staff who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for the station corroborated part of Griffin’s account.
Smith also indicated he was saved by peaceful protestors as a violent gang hit and kicked him.
Our sources at KDKA said Morehouse urged Smith into the arena where he was examined, and a decision was made to send Smith to the hospital.
I’m was attacked by protestors downtown by the arena. They stomped and kicked me. I’m bruised and bloody but alive. My camera was destroyed. Another group of protesters pulled me out and saved my life. Thank you! @KDKA pic.twitter.com/clyANKodth
— Ian Smith (@ismithKDKA) May 30, 2020
There were multiple reports of assaults on Pittsburgh media members and public vandalism around Cente Ave. and PPG Paints Arena on Saturday Afternoon. KDKA-AM morning host Larry Richerts also reported KDKA TV reporter and anchor Paul Martino was attacked, but no further details are available.
As peaceful protestors beat kdka tv news photographer screaming kill him..kill him..Pgh Penguins President David Moorhouse dragged Ian inside the arena!!
Moorhouse saved his life pic.twitter.com/5RegLh94wl
— Marty Griffin (@MartyGriffinKD) May 30, 2020
The violence, looting, arson deviated from more peacefully forms of protest. Pittsburgh experienced the same types of protests which swept the country in response to the death of George Floyd Jr. on May 25 in Minneapolis. A cell phone video that went viral showed a Minneapolis police officer pin Floyd to the ground. The officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than 11 minutes, including three minutes after Floyd appeared to be non-responsive.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. He was later pronounced dead. The police officer, Derek Chauvin, who held Floyd down, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The three officers who watched but did not intervene have been fired.
In response to the city’s unrest for much of Saturday, Pittsburgh declared “Unlawful Assembly,” which required businesses to close and people to vacate downtown. The City of Pittsburgh also instituted an 8:30 PM curfew and assembled SWAT teams to clear the street. However, before official action could take place, several businesses, banks, and government buildings were vandalized and looted.
Four Pittsburgh police officers were also hospitalized on Saturday due to the violence.
In a press conference Saturday evening, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert expressed disappointment and anger toward those that turned Saturday afternoon’s protest from peaceful to violent.
“It’s a damn shame they took advantage of the death of George Floyd. This was a peaceful protest hijacked by a small group who brought youths into the group. White males dressed in anarchist attire.”
After four days of riots in Minneapolis, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said he believed opportunistic outside groups caused peaceful demonstrations to enflame to more violent practices.
“Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate and violent agenda,” Barr said. “In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized, and driven by anarchic and … far-left extremist groups using Antifa-like tactics.”
Schubert also said it appears the violence in Pittsburgh was incited by young white males dressed in Antifa garb.