Pittsburgh mayor: "Serious concerns" over arrest of "peaceful" protester by police in unmarked van

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat, is voicing “serious concerns” over the arrest of a 25-year-old BLM protester Saturday. Police conducted what is being reported as a “low visibility arrest”. Armed law enforcement officers grabbed Matthew Cartier, put him in an unmarked white van, and then left the scene.


The mayor is troubled that the tactic used by police scares people. The police department arrested Cartier in that manner to avoid a crowd gathering and further inciting the protesters. Cartier is facing charges of obstruction of a highway or other public passage, disorderly conduct and failure to disperse after blocking traffic at an intersection that is used for hospitals and the University of Pittsburgh. Commander Ed Trapp of the Special Deployment Division said that Cartier was directing traffic “with no situational awareness” and feared a traffic incident might happen. At the time, the BLM protest march had been going on for about an hour and 45 minutes with about 150 people participating. The law enforcement officers were incorrectly labeled as federal agents by protesters on social media.

The law enforcement officers were plainclothed and have been confirmed to be Pittsburgh Police officers by Pittsburgh Public Safety. So, they were not the federal agents sent into hot spots under orders from President Trump to help contain the chaos brought about when the “peaceful” protests devolve into violence and looting. The mayor and public safety officials held a press conference on Sunday about the arrest. Police say Cartier was interfering with public safety while protesters say the police are trying to intimidate them by using force.


“Watching these tactics, his refusal to cooperate and the information that we were given…we decided to effect a low visibility arrest of the individual because when high visibility stuff takes place with these marches, it tends to attract a crowd and incite them further. So we decided low visibility was the best way to do it,” said one of the incident commanders from yesterday. “And it also gave us the ability if he suddenly started cooperating to call the arrest off.”

The incident commander added that they did not call off the arrest after Cartier “refused” to cooperate.

Police reiterated multiple times that they have reportedly been having cooperation issues with protesters and organizers in the last few weeks and that yesterday’s incident was an example of that. While most demonstrators are peaceful, police say they are worried that a breakdown in communication between protesters and police could lead to someone getting injured or killed by way of a traffic accident.

“…in recent weeks, they have also become increasingly unsafe. And for me as Public Safety Director for the City of Pittsburgh, it is alarming when the ability to protect all citizens and visitors is superseded by the rights of some,” said Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich. “The unwillingness of protest organizers to consult with police either before or during demonstrations about planned protest routes is beginning to place numerous persons in danger.”


Police say Cartier was warned several times not to block intersections during the protest before he was arrested. Saturday was also move-in day for the University of Pittsburgh so there was an increase in traffic in that area. Besides the heavy traffic around the university, police were concerned about traffic from ambulances to and from the hospital. Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Shubert assured the public during the press conference that this arrest was not like those in Portland where intimidation from federal agents looked to be the name of the game. “That is not our intent. We did not do something to try to make people frightened or not understand what was going on.”

The mayor notified police leadership about his concerns after viewing the video of the arrest.

“When we look at pop-out as a tactic, especially with officers who are in plain clothes, we have to examine when that is appropriate,” he said. “We have to have an understanding if that is a tactic that should be utilized for a protest, and if so, when. And if when, why.”


More than 100 demonstrations have taken place since the death of George Floyd according to Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich. The protests have become a weekly event. Over time, they have become increasingly unsafe. The ACLU argues that police officers were “in clear violation of their own guidelines.” It sounds as though the mayor sides with the ACLU over the city’s own police department. The statement from the ACLU contradicts the police. Police say Cartier was warned several times before being arrested, the ACLU say he was “tricked” by law enforcement.

“According to those who were there, the law enforcement officers involved made no effort to work with protest leaders to clear the area and gave no clear dispersal order,” Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “Instead, they tricked a protest leader to approach them and then whisked him away. The ACLU of Pennsylvania has never suggested that the snatch-and-stash arrest of a peaceful demonstrator is ever acceptable.”

It sure sounds like the mayor is throwing the police department under the bus for doing their job and protecting the public – especially college students and ambulances trying to get in and out of the hospital zone.

Activists online called Cartier the “marshal” of the protest. He ran ahead of the protesters to block streets that scared motorists.


Police say at the intersection of Dithridge Street and Fifth Avenue Cartier blocked traffic again causing cars to stop suddenly and unsafely. At the point, an officer asked him to move and Cartier allegedly refused. The officer told him he was blocking a way to the hospitals in Oakland. And Cartier is accused of saying “show us the ambulance buddy.”

He didn’t move so he was arrested. The mayor says that Pittsburgh has not become like Portland with the violent protests of that city. That’s good news for business owners and residents. However, if he would like the protests to remain controlled, it would seem he would want to work with the police, not publicly criticize them. Perhaps he is in survival mode himself. About 150 – 200 angry protesters showed up at his house Sunday in response to Cartier’s arrest. They call the arrest a kidnapping.

One of the protesters today said they shouldn’t have to comply with their oppressors.

“You don’t owe them any explanation,” said one demonstrator to the crowd. “You are not supposed to comply with your oppressor.”

The march began with speeches at Mellon Park and then they took to the streets.

At one point, protesters began chanting for the removal of Mayor Peduto with chants of, “hey, hey, ho, ho, Mayor Peduto has got to go.”

That’s how it’s done during the Summer of Love – protests turn to personal attacks and intimidating public officials at their own homes. Sadly too often the liberal politicians in charge of the cities dealing with looting and destruction cave to the agitators. The mayor put the arrest of Cartier under investigation.


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John Stossel 12:40 AM | April 12, 2024