Identity & Justice

The identity and justice desk explores how the makeup of the Pittsburgh community is changing, and digs into issues of diversity and equity.

Screengrab from video posted by Joce Smith via Facebook

*UPDATED: Sept. 21, 2017 at 7:54 a.m.

Pittsburgh officials are reviewing the violent arrest of a man by five city officers, an encounter recorded by a bystander and posted to Facebook.

The 52-second video shows one officer, in particular, punching the man on the ground while saying, "Stop resisting" Tuesday night near PPG Paints Arena. Officers can be heard cursing, and one calls for a Taser.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

In light of President Donald Trump’s announcement to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA, Latino advocates in Pittsburgh are beginning a monthly series of community meetings to set priorities and help cultivate leadership.

Emma Lee / WHYY

This story is part of a WHYY series examining how the United States, four decades later, is still processing the Vietnam War.

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It was Bonnie Raines' job to case the joint.

Her target: the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania. If all went according to plan, Raines and fellow anti-war activists would pull off a burglary that would go down in history as exposing J. Edgar Hoover's secret surveillance of groups demonstrating the war in Vietnam.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John Wetzel began his criminal justice career in 1989, just as the commonwealth's prison population began to balloon.

It was the beginning of America's mass incarceration era -- one that Wetzel said his office is only now beginning to reverse.

Lawsuit Alleges Sex Scandal In Pennsylvania Coroner's Office

Sep 18, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP, file

Workers at a coroner's office in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains respond when someone dies under unusual circumstances, but lately they've also had to respond to lurid allegations in a sex scandal that's generated two lawsuits and a police investigation.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

There are 5.5 million veteran caretakers in the United States, including spouses, parents, family members and friends who find themselves as the primary care provider for a loved one after a military injury.

Report: Pennsylvania Child Abuse Workers Swamped, Underpaid

Sep 15, 2017
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The county caseworkers who investigate child abuse in Pennsylvania are underpaid, inadequately trained, plagued by high turnover and face dangerous conditions, according to a report released Thursday that recommended changes to the system.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Thirteen new surveillance cameras are now up and running through Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood.

Miki Yoshihito / Flickr

Advocates for stronger gun laws and domestic violence prevention are pushing for the passage of a bill that would restrict access to firearms for people convicted of domestic abuse. They say the current law has big loopholes.

In any domestic violence case involving a gun in Pennsylvania, law enforcement can demand the abuser turn the firearm over to police or a third party within 60 days. That third party can range from a licensed gun dealer to a friend or family member to safeguard the firearm.

How Plants Were Used To Gain Freedom On The Underground Railroad

Sep 14, 2017
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

An overlooked part of the Underground Railroad’s history is being brought back to life in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park. The From Slavery to Freedom Garden is a collaboration between the Frick Environmental Center and the Senator John Heinz History Center. 

Emma Lee / WHYY

Last year, some schools in the Philadelphia area became "sanctuary campuses," promising to protect undocumented students and those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The Trump administration's announcement last week that it will end DACA, a program shielding some  young people from deportation, could test that resolve if it, in fact, sunsets as promised in March.

Leaders of some "sanctuary campuses," such as the University of Pennsylvania — President Donald Trump's alma mater, immediately condemned the government's reversal.

Matt York / AP

Politicians and organizations in Philadelphia are raising money to help pay for applications to a soon-to be-ended program that allows young immigrants without legal status to remain in the country.

Officials on Monday announced the launch of The Dreamers Initiative , a fundraising effort to cover the $495 fee needed to renew an application to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program.

Group Aims To Put Homeless Families In Churches

Sep 8, 2017
Frank Franklin II / AP

The other day a dozen people crowded around a ring of tables in a Macungie church community room, one of those mostly featureless spaces crowded with beige folding chairs where, so often, the call of faith turns quietly and efficiently into action.

PIOTRUS / Wikimedia Commons

The City of Pittsburgh’s Art Commission is moving forward with its process of reviewing a controversial statue of the composer Stephen Foster.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Among Pittsburgh DREAMers who benefited from the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program – also called DACA – the Trump administration's decision to end the program elicited reactions ranging from distress to resignation on Wednesday.

Some were at a loss, saying they have no way to ensure they can stay in the U.S. if DACA expires in six months without a replacement from Congress.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

About 100 protesters gathered outside the Mt. Lebanon office of Rep. Tim Murphy Wednesday afternoon to protest President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Children's Arrivals program, commonly known as DACA.

Google Maps

Racist business cards bearing an image of a noose and a swastika have been found in a Pittsburgh neighborhood that is a hub of the city's Jewish community.

The cards have the swastika on one side with the message, "It's not illegal to be white ... yet" on the back next to an image of a noose.

The FBI says neo-Nazi and white supremacist literature and stickers have been showing up for more than two weeks in Squirrel Hill.

Jeff Roberson / AP

After riots erupted Ferguson, Mo. following the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown, investigations revealed that the entire criminal justice system in St. Louis County – not just the police department – levied massive amounts of fines and fees on its poorest citizens in order to fund itself.

It was a wake-up call for the nation, and one organization had already been in place working on these issues for five years.

Google Maps

Federal officials say their discrimination lawsuit against a Pennsylvania township over construction of a long-delayed mosque has been settled and the project can now move forward.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday that the Bensalem Masjid can build a mosque in Bensalem Township, which had denied it a construction permit in 2014. That led federal authorities to sue the township for religious discrimination.

Min Xian / WPSU

A judge has dropped all involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault charges for the 18 Penn State fraternity members charged in the death of pledge Timothy Piazza. Some defendants are going to trial for lesser charges. 

Lawyer: Penn State Fraternity Leaders Were Unaware Pledge Who Died Was In Danger

Aug 30, 2017
Bebeto Matthews / AP

The lawyer for a Penn State fraternity president accused in the death of a pledge after a night of drinking and hazing argued Wednesday that his client didn't see anything to make him think the pledge was at risk of dying.

Defense attorney Frank Fina said during a preliminary hearing that there was no evidence that former Beta Theta Pi president Brendan Young acted maliciously the night 19-year-old Tim Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey, was fatally injured.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Animal abusers in Pennsylvania could face fines of at least $500 and felony charges under a new law that went into effect this week.

Libre's Law increases penalties even for first-time offenders. It's named for the once-abused Boston Terrier-turned representative for animal rights, who co-signed the bill with his paw print alongside Governor Wolf back in June

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Pennsylvania prison officials say a pilot program designed to lower the re-arrest rate for nonviolent drug offenders is showing promise in its second year.

 

The Corrections Department said Tuesday the program known as SIP-HOPE is cutting recidivism by 13 percent, and participants are spending fewer days behind bars.

 

The program was developed with researchers at Drexel University, and put it in place at two halfway houses.

 

After Marrying U.S. Citizens, Undocumented Immigrants Attract ICE Scrutiny

Aug 22, 2017
Laura Benshoff / WHYY

Marriage tests couples in any number of ways.

Lillie Williams and Jonatan Palacios, both 27, have just spent about an hour being quizzed — literally — on their relationship.

Seth Perlman / AP

One local social service agency has launched a new program to house Pittsburgh's homeless youth ages 18-24.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

About 300 people marched from Homewood to North Point Breeze Saturday afternoon led by black activists and followed by white allies. 

The peaceful march organized by a group of black women and femmes intentionally prioritized the needs and voices of black attendees. All intersections of the black community including physical ability and sexual orientation and identity were welcomed as well as white allies. Organizer Deaja Baker said it was a chance to uplift the black communities.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Hundreds gathered in front of the City-County Building on Friday afternoon as Mayor Bill Peduto and a diverse group of interfaith and community leaders joined to unite the community against bigotry and hatred.

Evan Vucci / AP

Pittsburgh government and faith leaders invited the public to events this weekend "to come together during a trying time," Mayor Bill Peduto said Wednesday.

The events are a reaction to violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., last Saturday when white supremacist groups rallied over the removal of a Confederate statue and fought with counter protesters, including Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car slammed into the crowd.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

In the wake of the violent clash in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend, Governor Tom Wolf has urged Pennsylvania residents to unite against hatred and bigotry.

He also criticized President Donald Trump's remarks that there was "blame on both sides" during the event, which left one peaceful protestor dead and several injured.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Law enforcement officials are attempting another concerted effort to reduce gun crime in the city. The Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime, or PIRC, a joint city and federal project, began in 2010, but faded out within four years.

“[We] never had the buy in or the command staff, let alone the officers themselves. The difference is we have an entirely new command staff,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who was a member of City Council when PIRC was created.

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