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Pittsburgh protester gets 2 years of probation, social media ban

A prominent protester from Pittsburgh will serve two years of probation after pleading guilty Tuesday in six separate cases.

Shawn Green, who goes by the name Lorenzo Rulli, also must also stay off social media as part of the agreement.

Rulli, 20, of the city’s Marshall-Shadeland neighborhood, pleaded guilty to counts of simple assault, reckless endangerment, failure to disperse, conspiracy, false imprisonment, harassment, obstruction, disorderly conduct and possession of instruments of crime before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Edward J. Borkowski.

Rulli was arrested several times during the social justice movement that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020.

Defense attorney Lisle T. Weaver said his client has always intended to help others and advocate for the Black community, but also has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. During the summer of 2020, he said, Rulli was not properly taking his medication.

“His intent and desire to help strayed a bit,” Weaver said.

In the first case he pleaded to on Tuesday, police said Rulli initiated an attack on KDKA reporter Pam Surano and photographer Bryce Lutz in East Liberty during a protest on June 1, 2020. Two days earlier, another KDKA photographer, Ian Smith, was attacked, and he told investigators he heard Rulli, who was livestreaming the incident, shout, “Get that cameraman, get that cameraman.”

Then, on June 24, 2020, police said Rulli was involved in a protest over the dress policy at 941 Saloon on Liberty Avenue. That evening, police said, a group of protesters blocked the front door — preventing customers and employees from being able to leave — and threatened employees inside. Then, some of the protesters jumped on a security vehicle parked outside the building and stabbed its tires. Police said that Rulli was filmed on top of the security car.

Later that summer, protesters targeted then-Mayor Bill Peduto’s home on Hastings Street in Point Breeze in response to how he’d been handling the Black Lives Matter movement. On Aug. 21, 2020, Rulli was seen driving up and down Hastings Street yelling profanities through a megaphone. It was the fourth day in a row that he had gone to Peduto’s home under the guise of a peaceful protest, investigators said. At one point, the criminal complaint said, Rulli went on a 20-minute tirade shouting profanities at the neighbors.

The incident was livestreamed on Instagram, and police said Rulli could be heard saying that officers kill people of color and “that he was going to die tonight.”

Officers also said they believed Rulli was exhibiting signs of mental illness, as he alternately shouted obscenities at the police “followed by inconsolable sobbing and weeping.”

An attorney and friend of Rulli’s contacted police and Assistant District Attorney Grant Olson and officers were able to negotiate a peaceful surrender.

Then, on Sept. 2, 2020, Rulli was arrested again. A protest that began near the City-County Building continued to Market Square. While in Market Square, a white man told the protesters that “All lives matter,” prompting a group of about a dozen people to surround him.

Officers from the Civil Affairs unit stepped in and took the white man into custody. Rulli then approached two motorcycle officers, apparently upset that they didn’t also intervene, the criminal complaint said. Rulli called the officers names, and other protesters then surrounded them.

“Many of the protesters, some of whom were not wearing masks were shouting at the officers,” the complaint said.

One of the officers being surrounded asked for assistance on his radio, and three nearby motorcycle officers responded. However, Rulli and other protesters blocked the street to prevent the additional officers from being able to respond.

“(Rulli) stood in front of the approaching officers and placed his hand in the air in a stopping motion and shook his head as if to say ’ no,’” the complaint said. “Officers continued to try inching their motorcycles closer but the protesters continued to stand in their way.”

The officers eventually retreated. No officers were injured, although one complained of trouble hearing because another protester had been using a bullhorn near his ear.

Weaver, who represented Rulli during his plea, said his client is now working at the BLaQk House Collections art gallery and continues to raise money for homeless people.

He also said Rulli has been compliant throughout his time on house arrest prior to his plea hearing.

Assistant District Attorney Grant Olson told Borkowski he believes that Rulli’s current employment will allow him to continue his advocacy but also bring him stability.

“I know mental illness drove a lot of this,” Olson said.

Paula Reed Ward is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paula by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .