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Arnold firefighters do not support Mayor Peconi’s controversial comments, fire chief says

July 9, 2018

Arnold resident Tim Devinney signs a petition calling for the resignation of Arnold's mayor, Karen Peconi, on Saturday, July 7, 2018, as canvasser Hannah McBean (right) goes door-to-door asking residents to sign it.

Arnold firefighters “do not support or condone” allegedly racist comments made by Mayor Karen Peconi on social media, Arnold No. 2 fire Chief Chris O’Leath said Sunday.

O’Leath was responding after residents and activists said Saturday that they wanted to know where the city’s police and fire departments stood on remarks Peconi had made in reaction to people protesting the police shooting death of Antwon Rose in East Pittsburgh in June.

They fanned out across Arnold on Saturday to collect petition signatures calling for Peconi’s resignation.

They plan to present them to council at its meeting Tuesday.

There have been calls for Peconi to resign because she said on Facebook that people protesting Rose’s shooting should be hosed down with water cannons. She also said on Facebook that protesters must be unemployed because they were able to demonstrate at 7 a.m. on a weekday.

Peconi apologized for her remarks by email and deleted her personal Facebook page.

Aaron Moore, founder of the Concerned People of Color of Arnold and New Kensington, said silence from the police and fire departments on the subject was the same as acceptance.

Arnold Co. 1 fire Chief Walter Gouza confirmed Sunday that O’Leath was speaking on behalf of both companies.

O’Leath said the fire department as a whole does not get involved in politics, and each company has very strict social media policies.

“She has nothing to do with the fire department,” O’Leath said. “We do not answer to her or whoever the mayor happens to be.

“Our silence does not mean we are supporting her in any way, shape or form,” he said. “We just do not get involved in politics as a department.”

O’Leath said the department would also not get involved should the mayor request hoses or water cannons be used on protesters.

“We would not get involved in anything like that,” he said.

Gouza said firefighters are not equipped for crowd control, which he said is a police matter.

“We would never go and turn our hoses on the public,” he said.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, brittmeyer@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.

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