Police say ‘public safety emergency’ at O’Hara resolved after protest of Michael Knowles event


Punya Bhasin | News Editor

A protest outside O’Hara Student Center ahead of the Michael Knowles debate.

By Alexandra Ross and Rebecca Johnson

This story has been updated. 

Pitt police released an emergency notification alert Tuesday evening saying the “public safety emergency” at O’Hara Street is resolved. 

More than 250 people protested outside the O’Hara Student Center as Michael Knowles debated Brad Polumbo. The debate started around 7:30 p.m. 

Pitt closed several campus buildings in the vicinity of O’Hara Street early, according to the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management. The Graduate School of Public Health, Thaw Hall, Old Engineering Hall, Gardner Steel Center, Benedum Hall, University Club, Allen Hall and the Space Research Coordination Center closed early. The office also said Thackeray Hall was locked down due to a discharge of a fire extinguisher. As of 9:39 p.m., Nordenberg Hall and the William Pitt Union were locked down.  

By 10:08 p.m., streets and campus buildings began reopening and buildings started to return to their normal schedules. City police ordered individuals in the area to disperse at approximately 9:40 p.m. 

Pitt restricted access to residence halls for non-University affiliated guests, and advised anyone with an “urgent need” regarding this policy to contact Panther Central. 

Minutes before Pitt police released its first emergency notification alert about the situation at 7:34 p.m., a loud explosive sound echoed across campus, audible from campus buildings including the Cathedral of Learning and the WPU. University spokesperson Jared Stonesifer confirmed the sound was a smoke bomb. Police officers on scene said the explosive was a combination of a firework and smoke bomb. 

The University posted on Twitter that “no injuries are reported at this time, and there is not believed to be an ongoing threat.” The post advised people to stay away from Thackeray Avenue and University place. Medics were also called to the scene “as a precautionary measure.”

Carnegie Mellon University sent out an emergency alert at 8:15 p.m. warning of a building collapse on Pitt’s campus, but the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management confirmed that this alert was a mistake. No damage to any buildings at Pitt has been reported. 

Student Affairs said counseling will be available Tuesday evening at the WPU 6th floor and at the Counseling Center in Nordenberg Hall.