For Immediate Release August 21, 2005
Contact: David Meieran, 412-996-4986 Nathan Shaffer, 412-720-9276
PITTSBURGH POLICE ATTACK NON-VIOLENT PROTESTORS WITH TASERS, PEPPER SPRAY AND K-9 UNITS Counter-Recruitment Demonstration Ends in Five Arrests and Two Hospitalizations
Pittsburgh, PA – The Pittsburgh Police Department displayed an excessive use of force at a demonstration yesterday outside a military recruitment station located near the University of Pittsburgh. Five were arrested, two were hospitalized and several others received injuries as a result of police unwarranted use of Tasers, pepper spray, retracting batons and K-9 units. Two others were issued citations when they complained about police misconduct.
Yesterday's protest marks the first time in the city's history that police used Tasers on demonstrators. Dramatic Indymedia video shows police dragging a young woman off the sidewalk and Tasering her mercilessly as she lay on the street screaming—and this after she was pepper-sprayed directly in the face. The video clearly demonstrates that she posed no threat to the police or anyone else when she was Tasered, marking a clear violation of the city's official guidelines for the use of these controversial weapons. The activist was taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital for treatment and remains in police custody.
Police also used K-9 units to chase away protestors on the sidewalk. A 68-year old grandmother was bitten from behind by a police dog and then arrested and placed in an unventilated police van in the hot sun where she remained for 45 minutes before she, too, was finally taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital for treatment.
In addition, police pepper sprayed a four year-old girl, toppled a man with Multiple Sclerosis in his motorized wheel chair and clubbed a number of protestors with retracting metal batons.
At the time of the police attacks activists were peacefully assembled on the sidewalk in front of the recruiting station, which had opted to remain closed for the day in response to yesterday's call for non-violent direct action by Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG). It marked the second time this month that POG had pre-emptively shut down military recruitment at that station, which is the headquarters for military recruitment in the city. (For more information Pittsburgh Organizing Group's counter-recruitment campaign, visit www.OrganizePittsburgh.org .)
POG is alarmed by yesterday's events. In the past two years, more than 150 people have been killed by Tasers. Amnesty International, the ACLU and other groups have called for a moratorium on their use. In response to a public outcry to police abuse of Tasers, a number of cities have imposed restrictions on Taser use, cancelled orders or pulled them from circulation. The manufacturer, Taser International, is facing multiple lawsuits.