To view the complaint and videos of the June 1 police attack on peaceful protestors in East Liberty visit:

If you were at the protest and think you might be a class member, please fill out this form at and email to: , ,

On June 1, 2020, a peaceful protest in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh against nationwide police violence turned into a yet another demonstration of excessive force by the police. Protesters who participated in this protest have filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against Pittsburgh Bureau of Police (PBP) officials, Mayor Bill Peduto, and the City of Pittsburgh after police unleashed violence on peaceful demonstrators, then rounded up and arrested nearly two dozen people who committed no crimes. The protesters are represented by attorneys from O’Brien Law, Abolitionist Law Center, and Elzer Law Firm, LLC.

Named Plaintiffs include a 13-year-old boy, his mother, and her fiancé, who attended the protest to learn about the First Amendment, but instead were met with tear gas and violence; a dance instructor who was arrested outside his apartment while he was on his way home; a local non-profit worker who was gassed and chased at gunpoint; an international peace observer who spent the night in jail after being tear gassed and arrested while trying to walk to their car; and a man who was shot in the back by four rubber bullets as he tried to leave the protest. 

On June 1, the PBP escalated a peaceful protest into a scene of pandemonium, panic, violence and bloodshed. The PBP deployed hundreds of officers to counter approximately 150 protesters.  As the assembled protesters held their hands in the air and chanted, “This is not a riot,” and “Hands up – Don’t shoot,” PBP ordered its officers to attack them with explosives, chemical agents and ammunition which is known to seriously wound and sometimes kill its targets.  PBP officers drove ambulances past injured protesters without stopping. After ordering peaceful protesters to leave the area, PBP officers blocked their escape with chemical gas, riot police and mounted patrols. The PBP ordered tactical officers dressed in paramilitary garb to patrol a residential neighborhood in armored vehicles and arbitrarily throw canisters of chemical gas at anyone they encountered. The PBP arrested twenty-two protestors for failing to disperse, subjecting them to confinement in the midst of a global COVID-19 pandemic.  The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office withdrew the charges for every person arrested due to a lack of sufficient evidence or allegations to support the criminal charges.

Immediately following the PBP’s overwhelming and unjustified use of force in East Liberty, Mayor Peduto, Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich and Chief of Police Scott Schubert held a press conference at which they disseminated flagrant lies to conceal and/or justify the PBP’s use of force against peaceful protesters. These officials accused protesters of hurling rocks and “volleys of bricks” at PBP officers, and vehemently denied using chemical agents.  Numerous videos statements were patently false.

“In Pittsburgh and across the country, police officers’ use of chemical weapons such as tear gas and projectile munitions such as rubber bullets, beanbag rounds, and sponge grenades against protesters has resulted in serious and debilitating injuries. Moreover, the routine and indiscriminate use of these tactics deters would-be protesters from exercising their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and petition the government,” said the attorneys representing the Protesters.  

The lawsuit seeks an order preventing the City of Pittsburgh from declaring peaceful protests unlawful and from using chemical agents and projectiles against peaceful protesters.[1] The lawsuit also seeks money damages for protesters whose rights were violated.

The suit was filed the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania by Attorneys Margaret Coleman of O’Brien Law, Quinn Cozzens of Abolitionist Law Center, and Christine T. Elzer of Elzer Law Firm, LLC.

For additional information contact

Margaret Coleman

Quinn Cozzens

Christine Elzer


[1] Federal courts have issued similar injunctions against police departments in several cities, including Denver, Seattle, and Oakland


  • Photo of Nicole Rulli and Charles Bryant and three children:
"We wanted to excercise our 1st amendment rights and allow our son to elarn from this experience. As we marched down Centre Avenue we felt optimistic for change and proud that we decided to bring our son with us. Unfortunately in the midst of this we were met by a line of riot oficers who decided to use terrorist tactics on American citizens. The fact that excessive force was used during a march against police brutality shows that we have a need for reform locally as well."
  • Picture of Donovan Hayden:
"The recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Tayler, and George Floyd reignited the anger that I share with many black people. The anger that comes from being victims to degrading, reckless, and racist policing. I channeled and expressed that anger through protesting on June 1st. I marched, sang, and listened with others to mourn the lives lost and challenge the systems kiling us. 
The group that continued the protests after 6"30 pm was not a "splinter group" of agitators from out-of-town. We were a peaceful and multiracial group of hudnreds of Pittsburghers that only wanted to continue freely walking our streets in solidarity with the other cities protesting  the murder of George Floyd and police brutality. As a black man, I have spent my whole life watching police dominate our streets and intimidate me in my own neighborhood. That night, i intended to reclaim the streets with my neighbords and friends..."
  • Photo: Wilson Juring
Text: "On Monday, June 1st, 2020, I attended a Black Lives Matter protest in East Liberty to give my support to the fight against police brutality and systemic racism...What I witnessed and the first-hand accounts I heard that evening were extremely disturbing and led me to question the narrative put forward by the mayor and local law enforcement officials. Despite their claims that they were protecting the people of East Liberty, law enforcement officers were the only ones committing violent acts against the people there, most of whom were locals like myself. Now I fear that we don't have the ability to peacefully protest in Pittsburgh without putting our health and safety in jeopardy."
  • Photo of Jay Yoder
Text: "I attended the protest against police brutality becuase I believe everyone deserves a life free from violence. As a lifelong peace activist, I have been horrified by police violence against Black people, such as Antwon Rose. As an international human rights observer with Christian Peacemaker Teams I have accompanied protestors and activists in Colombia and Iraqi Kurdistan - and the violent behavior I saw from Pittsburgh Police against their own neighbors and community members shocked me."
  • Simon Phillips
Text: "...Colored citizens of our United States are being unjustly policed and having civil rights abused. This is not fair. So, I seized the opportunity to stand in solidarity with community to advocate for change. Acknowledging the 500+ years of systematic oppression, I didn't think much would come from the protest on a larger political scale. However, I personally benefited from the unity and passionate expression in a present moment with others. I knew I was well within my rights, so I have/had no regrets about attending a humble rally in support of my people."

To view the complaint and videos of the June 1 police attack on peaceful protestors in East Liberty visit:

If you were at the protest and think you might be a class member, please fill out this form at and email to: , ,