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‘Show up’: Parents and students hold protest demanding Pittsburgh-area district reopen schools

Parents and students in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, held a protest Wednesday demanding their school district “show up” and allow in-person classes to resume at the start of the school year as the school board mulls a plan to hold classes entirely online for months.

But the district has voiced concerns over COVID-19, saying a number of teachers have reservations about returning to school right now.

What are the details?

KDKA-TV reported the crowd of families rallied ahead of the district’s Thursday vote on whether or not to move forward with the board’s proposal to begin the first nine weeks of school with only the option to attend remotely. The protestors want a choice on whether to children attend class in-person or remain at home.

Kids could be seen holding signs that read, “Show up,” “I miss my friends,” and “I learn better in school.” At least one parent carried a sign that read, “Give us a choice.”

The outlet said “the district now has advocated for their preference for beginning the school year entirely remotely,” with the district citing “health concerns and a potential lack of teachers” willing to reenter the classroom amid the pandemic.

It’s a decision facing school districts across the U.S., and the Mt. Lebanon demonstration is not the first.

Similar protests have been held in recent weeks throughout the nation, including in Palm Beach, Florida, and Boston, Massachusetts.

Likewise, teachers and parents throughout the country have held protests against districts that have decided to reopen with in-person classes, in places like Rochester, New Hampshire, and Reno, Nevada.

Proponents of returning to in-person classes sooner rather than later are concerned that children are not receiving the same quality education with online courses, while opponents say the risk of spreading COVID-19 in schools is too great.

Another strong argument for reopening schools is that most parents work, and not all of them are able to stay home to care for their children. That point was acknowledged by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D) last week, when he said during a press conference, “If we don’t open up the schools, you’re going to hurt the economy significantly because lots of people can’t go to work.”

Meanwhile, several teachers unions have come out against the reopening of schools. The American Federation of Teachers even told its chapters it would provide financial resources to chapters that go on strike in protest of going back to in-person learning at the start of the school year.

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‘Antifa kid’ who smashed a police car and incited riots in Pittsburgh is escorted into custody — by his mom and dad

Brian Bartels, the 20-year-old man who police say turned a protest in Pittsburgh into a riot on Saturday, turned himself in to law enforcement yesterday — escorted by his mom and dad.

He faces charges of institutional vandalism, rioting, and reckless endangerment of another person, according to police.

Law enforcement had been investigating the destruction of a police SUV over the weekend that had been spray-painted and then set on fire during the demonstrations.

After receiving an anonymous tip from a coworker identifying Bartels as the culprit, police executed a search warrant at his home. During the search they found two guns, six spray paint cans, gloves, and the sweatshirt that the suspect had been wearing during the protest, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

A video had also surfaced showing a young white male smashing the police SUV’s windows and tagging it with spray paint. In the video, the suspect, believed to be Bartels, can be seen dressed in all-black Antifa-like gear.

A woman attempted to stop Bartels from causing damage to the SUV, but Bartels flipped her off in refusal and continued to smash that SUV’s windows.

In the tweet of Bartels turning himself into police custody, Jason Howerton refers to him as an “Antifa kid” because his dress and actions were characteristic of the group’s members. But an official link between Bartels and Antifa has not been established.

Pittsburgh Public Safety reported on Sunday that 60 businesses and other properties were damaged and 44 arrests were made as a result of Saturday’s protests. Police believe that Bartel’s actions, which took place at around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, were what turned protests into a violent riot.

During a press conference, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott called it a “damn shame” that Antifa-like rioters were taking advantage of the protests.

“I am so angry at the fact that some segment hijacked this and then took some of the youth and brought them into the mix,” Schubert said. “There’s no doubt that that’s who’s doing it and a lot of things we’re seeing are white males, dressed in the anarchist, ANTIFA, they’re ones who are fueling a lot of this. It’s just a damn shame that they took advantage of the situation, for something, something happened in another state where somebody died who shouldn’t have died, and they hijacked that message for their own.”

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Pittsburgh dumped piles of sand on skate park, then skaters cleaned up the park

The city of Pittsburgh thought it could stop people from skating at a local skate park by putting a lock on the gate. Skaters cut the chain for the lock. City officials then thought they could stop people from going to the Polish Hill skate park by dumping piles of sand on it. That plan was foiled after skaters cleaned up the park.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (D) ordered the West Penn State Park in Polish Hill to be covered with sand to keep people from skating on Thursday.

Someone quickly reacted with a Craigslist listing advertising “free sand” at the Polish Hill skate park. “Can be used for sandboxes, gardening, or to stage a reenactment of Raising Arizona,” the ad read.

Then on Thursday night, someone retaliated against politicians by dumping a pile of sand at the doorstep of city hall.

The sand plan was thwarted on Saturday morning when a group of people grabbed some shovels and wheelbarrows to remove the sand from the skate park. The cleanup effort was organized by popular activist Scott Presler, who is no stranger to cleaning up other people’s messes.

Police shut down the cleanup, but the sand had already been removed.

This is exactly what happened in California, when the city of San Clemente unloaded 37 tons of sand on its skate park to stop people from skateboarding. The sandy course attracted dirt bike riders, and then skaters cleaned up the park.

Presler previously made national headlines for his inner-city cleanup efforts in Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

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Hours after Pittsburgh dumped sand on skate park, a pile of sand was left at city hall

Skateboarders may have drawn a line in the sand after the city of Pittsburgh shut down their neighborhood skateboard park. Only hours after Pittsburgh dumped sand on a skate park to prevent people from skating, a pile of sand was deposited at Pittsburgh’s city hall in what very well could be a dirty form of revenge.

The Polish Hill skate park was transformed into a sandbox after Pittsburghers continued to use the park despite the stay-at-home lockdown. Pittsburgh Department of Public Works Director Mike Gable said they locked up the park, but people cut the locks to gather at the park.

“We don’t take any pride or pleasure in doing this,” Gable said on Thursday. “The park is closed and we kept the gate locked, but they cut the lock or the chain or they hopped over the fence. People have to listen to what the directive is and the directive is social distancing.

“We don’t take any pride in closing facilities. They’re great assets,” Gable said. “But there is a directive out there and when it’s not being followed, it creates a problem.

“The area that the skate park is in is a very tight, confined space. The number of people using it was extraordinary and that’s why it was closed,” he added.

The Pittsburgh Public Works decided to dump sand all over the skate park on Thursday, a measure that has been done in California to combat people disobeying the shelter-at-home orders. The city of San Clemente unloaded 37 tons of sand on its skate park to prevent people from skating. Their efforts fell flat after the sandy course attracted dirt bike riders, and skaters cleaned up the park.

Hours after the Steel City shut down the skating park, a pile of sand was left at the doorway to Pittsburgh’s City-County Building, which is 2.5 miles from the Polish Hill skate park.

Public Safety spokesman Chris Togneri said police were investigating the sand dump at the revolving door of city hall, but declined to comment if the incident was revenge for the skate park getting closed. If this was retaliation for the skate park, this would be one interesting way to tell the city government to go pound sand.

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University of Pittsburgh researchers say they have developed a potential COVID-19 vaccine

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine believe they have developed a potential vaccine for COVID-19.

The researchers announced the news in a study published in EBioMedicine Thursday, calling the potential vaccine a “promising immunization strategy” and noting that it could be introduced and distributed quickly enough to “significantly impact the spread of disease.”

The vaccine, called PittCoVacc, is made of dissolvable sugar and bits of a particular protein known as the spike protein, which the virus uses to attach to cells and infect its host. When tested in mice, it was found to produce what is thought to be the sufficient number of antibodies needed to counteract the virus.

The researchers said they were able to move so quickly because of their past work developing potential vaccines for similar coronaviruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

“We had previous experience on SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2014. These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, teach us that a particular protein, called a spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus,” said co-senior author Andrea Gambotto, M.D., associate professor of surgery at the Pitt School of Medicine.

“We knew exactly where to fight this new virus,” he added.

The possible vaccine was developed the old-fashioned way “using lab-made pieces of viral protein to build immunity,” according to a news release from the school — the same way current flu shots work. But it is delivered in a novel way, using a small fingertip-sized patch, similar to a BandAid. The patch goes on and then 400 tiny needles deliver the vaccine into the skin, where the immune reaction is the strongest.

“It’s actually pretty painless — it feels kind of like Velcro,” co-senior author Louis Falo, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of dermatology at Pitt’s School of Medicine and UPMC, said.

The researchers are now seeking approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in order to advance to testing in humans, and they hope that the FDA will fast-track the normally lengthy process.

“Testing in patients would typically require at least a year and probably longer,” Falo said. “This particular situation is different from anything we’ve ever seen, so we don’t know how long the clinical development process will take. Recently announced revisions to the normal processes suggest we may be able to advance this faster.”


Pitt Unveils Possible Coronavirus Vaccine

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Pittsburgh food bank line reaches one mile long amid surge in need

Traffic patterns in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, were disrupted on Monday, due to a mile-long stretch of vehicles lined up as people waited for hours seeking hunger relief boxes from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Law enforcement set up portable toilets along the roadway every 3/10ths of a mile for the crowd that began forming at around 7:00 a.m. Distribution of food began at noon.

What are the details?

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette multimedia editor Andrew Rush posted footage of the traffic jam taken from a helicopter, showing the line of cars bumper-to-bumper.

WPXI-TV reported that food bank’s distribution event changed traffic patterns in the area, causing police to step in and help direct drivers. New access restrictions were established for folks attempting to reach the facility in order to prevent further disruption from the mile-long line stretch taking up two lanes.

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank employees told the outlet that the surge in need was due to a sharp uptick in unemployment claims from business closings and layoffs caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing measures that have come in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

The Morning Call reported Monday that unemployment claims in Pennsylvania soared to an “unprecedented” 835,000 over the past two weeks. The volume of filings caused the state’s unemployment website to crash over the weekend, according to KYW-TV.

Anything else?

Food pantries across the country are experiencing the same surge in traffic.

The Orange Country Register reported another mile-long line of vehicles formed outside the Second Harvest Food Bank in Anaheim, California, on March 21, during a pop-up distribution event.

Vice reported that food banks across the U.S. are experiencing a “tsunami” of people in need amid the coronavirus crisis, noting that “some places are seeing double their normal amount of clientele.”

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