Windows smashed, 'a lot of damage' in Shadyside protest
City police are trying to identify a group of about 30 people who donned masks and ran through Shadyside on Friday night, smashing the windows of more than a half-dozen businesses and an unknown number of automobiles.
There were no injuries in the vandalism spree that began shortly after 8:40 p.m., when police first spotted the group, marching peacefully near Liberty Avenue and Baum Boulevard in Bloomfield, holding candles and telling officers they were holding a funeral procession for a friend, city Public Safety Department spokeswoman Sonya Toler said.
A few minutes later, there was chaos a few blocks away as the group turned onto Walnut Street and marched past the shops and restaurants filled with patrons.
“I saw a group of nine or 10 guys. I couldn't see their faces because they all were wearing hoodies,” said Miranda Leanos, 18, a waitress at the Thai Place Restaurant.
“It was terrifying. At first I thought there was a shooting or something,” Leanos said. “Someone used a hammer or some other object and smashed the window. It was immature and rude and dangerous.”
When officers first saw the group, they were carrying signs with a picture of a man carrying an automatic weapon and the words: “Original Yinsurgent…R.I.P Mike V…Anarchy forever….Forever anarchy.”
Self-described anarchist Michael Richard Vesch, 41, of Wilkinsburg died Friday. He was a staple at anti-war protests in front of the Army recruiting center in Oakland during the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the Occupy Pittsburgh protests in Mellon Park, Downtown, in 2011 and 2012.
Toler said police do not know what prompted the marchers to “don masks, pull out hammers and begin smashing windows.”
The vandals had scattered by the time police arrived on Walnut Street, leaving behind shattered glass on the sidewalks, abandoned protest signs and a good many of scared, angry and disgusted business owners, workers, shoppers and diners.
“There's a lot of damage,” Toler said, “several thousands of dollars in damage.”
Staff writer Adam Brandolph contributed to this report. Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or at [email protected].