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Public Safety Director: Unpredictability Of Antwon Rose Protest Locations Presents Challenges

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – For almost a week now, protesters have taken to the streets of Pittsburgh to protest the fatal shooting of Antwon Rose Jr.

"We are dedicating resources to the protests and that is taking away from our neighborhoods," Pittsburgh Deputy Police Chief Thomas Strangrecki said.

The Pittsburgh Public Safety Director, Wendell Hissrich, and Pittsburgh Police say the protests have taken a toll on the city. Police officers are doubling up, and EMS crews and Public Works are putting in overtime hours.

wendell hissrich
(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Hissrich says one problem is not knowing where the next protest will take place and when.

"It would be very beneficial to us and to the protesters if they would at least provide us their routes, to how many people are going to show up," he said.

So far, that has not happened. In fact, with the exception of the viewing and funeral of 17-year-old Antwon Rose Jr., there have been protests every day since he was shot and killed by East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld on June 19.

KDKA-TV asked Mayor Bill Peduto how long the protests can last.

"First Amendment doesn't have a timeframe, so there is no disclosure date of when protests could or should end," he said.

Protests over police shootings in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson and Dallas lasted for several months, frustrating motorists trying to get from one location to the next. Public Safety says it's playing it by ear.

"It will be a judgement call between the command staff as to when enough is enough. The other issue is what roads we're blocking and for how long. Today, we allowed them to block roads for up to 20 minutes and they continued on and we can live with that. However, we have to look at the locations they are blocking, too, because if they are blocking some essential facility like a hospital, we're not going to allow that. I was very concerned with the parkway the other night because the Parkway East is used by medical units from Westmoreland County, Indiana County and that became a very serious situation so we will judge the location," Hissrich said.


Another concern for Public Safety is those who incite the protesters, like the motorist who drove through the crowd outside PNC Park on Friday night. Police are looking to arrest him, and they announced Tuesday that they have the vehicle's license plate and a possible suspect.

Police did cite a tow truck driver on Route 28 who tried to incite the crowd.

Many in the community are asking how hundreds of people can protest without a permit. According to the mayor, it is an individual's right to assemble. As long as the group keeps moving, no permit is required.

In terms of dollars and cents, how much is this costing the city? Those numbers are still being tallied. In the meantime, police officers will continue to work 12-hour shifts.

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