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Police In Riot Gear Disperse Protesters In Pittsburgh During Rally To Support Black LGBTQIA Community

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Tensions ran high at a small, peaceful protest in Uptown late Friday afternoon.

Pittsburgh police declared an unlawful assembly and used riot gear after protesters blocked traffic.

The group of about 100 people began at Freedom Corner in the Hill District just before 5 p.m. for a rally in honor of the Black LGBTQIA community.

(Photo Credit: KDKA's Shelby Cassese)

"We can't feel safe if there's too much violence or violence against our very existence," said organizer Terrance McGeorge. "So we have to change that."

As protesters began to march toward PPG Paints Arena around 5:15 p.m., Pittsburgh police were on hand, most of them on motorcycles, to block the streets.

However, when the group reached Centre Avenue and Washington Place, KDKA witnessed multiple cars drive up to the intersection.

"They did not at all try to prevent cars from coming in," protester DeVar Ferguson said of police efforts to block traffic.

Protesters were visibly upset as they began to block cars themselves to keep the vehicles from driving toward them.

Eventually, the cars either turned around or were guided out by police.

As protesters continued down Washington Place, they blocked the ramp to I-579.

The police told KDKA an unlawful assembly was declared because "a small group of protesters on foot and in vehicles blocked vehicle access to the 579 on-ramp creating a traffic and safety hazard." Police also said, "The demonstration was very peaceful."

As protesters stood in a line on Washington Place chanting "This is not a riot," police in riot gear approached.

KDKA witnessed one person being taken away in handcuffs and another who was pushed back by an officer with a baton.

Pittsburgh Public Safety says police made one arrest for failure to disperse and obstruction of roadways.

Officers could be heard telling protesters to disperse, eventually giving them a "third and final" warning.

After that warning, protesters cleared the area without incident.

Some expressed their anger and disappointment in the way the situation played out.

"I'm very upset," said Kyna James. "It's not okay. The police literally put every single protester, every single leader in danger today and it's unacceptable."

The entire event lasted about 90 minutes, and the group dispersed about 15 minutes after police declared an unlawful assembly.

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