PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich is asking for peace following the outcome of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin is charged with the death of George Floyd last year.
Hissrich says within the next 24-48 hours, Public Safety will be meeting with downtown organizations and businesses to discuss planning for possible protests.
"We hope to continue to support protesters with roving marches, but there comes a time that violence, throwing items at police officers, destroying property, that we have to take action. We hope to God that it doesn't occur, but there's been a lot of planning going on behind the scenes," Hissrich said. "We are working with our partners – federal, state, local – and the business owners and the community as well, but we are certainly asking for peace and we will do everything we can to allow people to express their First Amendment rights."
City and county police have been talking, training and planning, trying to learn lessons from last summer's roving marches and strike a balance — a balance between the rights of the protestors to protest and the rights of the rest of the public and businesses to feel safe.
"We're going to do our job to the best of our ability to protect people, respect their right to protest, and more important to us is to keep it safe for everybody," said Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Chief Scott Schubert.
Both Hissrich Schubert said they will not get into the specifics of their planning.
"We respect First Amendment assembly and what it means, and we're there to support it and to try to keep people safe, but we do understand that there's the possibility of violence and destruction. We have to be prepared for that as well," Chief Schubert said.
Last May, protestors smashed windows at about 70 downtown businesses and looted others when one march turned violent, and Allegheny County Sheriff William Mullen says police need to be more proactive to prevent that from happening.
"It's great to have protesters obtains their rights, but we can't have other people losing their rights — particularly people who might lose their home or business because no one helped them out," Mullen said.
But unlike last year, businesses downtown were not boarding up on Monday, and Kelly Sanders of the arts and craft store Love, Pittsburgh is hoping for peace.
"I support the protests. I think everybody's voices need to be heard. But of course, I don't want our store to become looted or damaged, but I side with people who need to express how they feel" she said.
Schubert says he's hoping that this will be a moment for everyone to come together to build community and understanding.
"My hope is that we come together and unite, and depending on how the verdict goes, that we talk about that. We understand, whatever happens, the harm that it is causing them," he said. "We're all we've got."
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