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Mayor Peduto Calls For Independent Investigations Into Disbursement Of Crowd At East Liberty Protest

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- During these protests, the city has blamed a small group of agitators for turning peaceful assemblies into violent confrontations.

But protesters at an East Liberty demonstration Monday are pointing their fingers at police. Now, Mayor Peduto is calling for a full investigation.

A tense standoff. Ignited by a smoke canister. And a panicked stampede back down Centre Avenue. Nine police officers injured and two demonstrators, leaving a litany of questions. Who initiated it the mayhem, was that smoke or tear gas, and did police shoot rubber bullets? Later that night, the mayor vowed to get answers. Today, he called on the Office of Municipal Investigations to conduct a thorough probe.

"For the past 36 hours, I have studied best practices of less lethal crowd dispersion, I have read countless comments on social media and viewed first-hand video, photographs and accounts," Peduto said in a statement. "The Public Safety Director provided me with the written official transcripts of all Command operations during that day and I have talked with every person in the Command rank who was on the ground or in the Command Center. Without question, there is a difference of opinion about what happened that day and the appropriateness of the actions of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police."

Demonstrators say police caused the panic Monday night while police said they were under assault and repeatedly asked them to disperse.

"But instead people continued to throw rocks and water bottles, and at that point in time the tactic command made the decking for us to use smoke," Commander Jason Lando said.

The police contend they used smoke at the scene but today said tear gas was used that night at other locations. Protester Nicole Rulli says that's not true.

"It wasn't just smoke. It was tear gas. I was in the fetal position in the street up there with bright red snot coming out. I had to have milk poured on me because I couldn't breathe. I thought I was going to die."

The demonstrators also say police shot them with rubber bullets, but today a police spokesperson said the bureau has used beanbags and sponge rounds during these protests.

In addition, Peduto has asked the Citizen Police Review Board, along with the ACLU, NAACP Pittsburgh branch and the U.S. Attorney's Office to look into the situation.

WATCH: KDKA's Pam Surano Has More On The CPRB's Investigation

"We are trying to determine whether the police had remained within policy, if there were deviations," said Beth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board.

The Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board is an independent agency set up to review police conduct.

The board will have the results of its investigation on June 23.

"The use of physical force and impact weapons is something that has certain criteria attached to it and we will be looking into it to determine if it was appropriate or not," Pittinger said.

Find contact information for the Citizen Police Review Board below.

Voice only: 412-765-8023
Voice/text: 412-849-5935

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