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PITTSBURGH, PA (July 26, 2018) -- In the past five weeks since the shooting in East Pittsburgh Borough of 17-year-old Antwon Rose, and the subsequent community outcry and protests, the City of Pittsburgh has been working with local and national experts on best practices for protest response. To that end the City today is announcing three new initiatives on its responses to unpermitted demonstrations going forward.
The City's guiding principle remains protecting the First Amendment rights of protesters while assuring that all people – from protesters to city residents and motorists who may be affected by road closures – are kept safe.
Today the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police is announcing new roadway safety guidelines; crisis intervention teams to work with protesters; and work on a new de-escalation initiative.
Police are committed to allowing protestors to close streets during First Amendment activities, but to ensure safety the new Roadway Safety Guidelines prohibit demonstrations from blocking hospital, special event and tunnel/bridge entrances and exits. Using input from traffic and crowd management planners, it also bars certain critically important intersections from being closed down at any time, and other intersections from being closed down during morning and afternoon rush hours.
"These guidelines are a starting point, which give incident commanders more direction and balance when managing peaceful protests and ensure that public safety is maintained for all involved," Police Chief Scott Schubert said.
The Road Safety Guidelines policy is available in full here.
Police will soon deploy crisis intervention teams to coordinate with protesters during demonstrations and promote open communication between organizers and police personnel. The specially-trained officers will seek to meet with protesters both before and after events to address concerns or issues that arise, in order to keep protesters safe and informed of police actions in support of First Amendment activity.
Police will also formally adopt de-escalation practices and tactics proven to reduce tension and enhance safety during demonstrations and other crowd activities. Public Safety personnel will work with community leaders and stakeholders to provide input into the policies before they are adopted.