PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) -- Twenty-year-old Brian Bartels of Allison Park pleaded guilty on Tuesday in federal court in Pittsburgh to obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder.
Bartels, who self-identifies as a left-wing anarchist, initiated damaging a police car outside PPG Paints Arena during the protests over George Floyd's death.
According to information provided in court, Bartels joined a large crowd of protesters on May 30, 2020 around the area of Centre Avenue above PPG Paints Arena. Bartels removed a can of red spray paint from his backpack and sprayed an "A" on a Pittsburgh Police SUV before jumping on the hood, spraying more paint on the vehicle, then stomping on the windshield, breaking it. Some people in the crowd cheered him on, and some people joined in on hitting and kicking the police SUV. Bartels then jumped off the hood and attempted to break the passenger side window.
"On May 30, 2020, Brian Bartels incited the largest and most destructive riot in Pittsburgh history since 1968," said U.S. Attorney Brady. "Armed with his homemade agitator toolkit, this self-identified extreme left-wing anarchist came to the protest in downtown Pittsburgh that day with one goal: to incite violence. Bartels succeeded--he was the first to incite violence during the protest. While protesters yelled at him to stop, Bartels spray painted and the smashed and jumped on the windshield of a Pittsburgh Police cruiser. Others then joined in and the cruiser was set on fire and destroyed."
"Bartel's actions were the inflection point in the demonstration," continued U.S. Attorney Brady. "What was peaceful became lawless. Ultimately, Pittsburgh police cars were burned. Mounted Pittsburgh Police Officers were attacked. Projectiles were thrown at Pittsburgh Police Officers. Reporters were attacked and their camera destroyed. What started as a peaceful demonstration, turned into a violent evening of destruction and looting throughout downtown Pittsburgh. "
"The violent actions of this young person were appalling," FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman said. "Mr. Bartels went downtown with the intent to incite panic and violence. His poor decisions put everyone, including those exercising their First Amendment rights peacefully, in danger. This type of behavior will not be tolerated in the city we all call home. Let this guilty plea send a message to others that we will use all of our investigative resources to bring to justice those who choose to participate in criminal activity."
Bartels admitted to his conduct in initiating the attack on the police car when interviewed by investigators, expressing remorse and regret.
He was charged federally in a criminal complaint on June 5, 2002, then indicted by the federal grand jury on June 9, 2020.
Judge Schwab scheduled sentencing for January 27, 2021.
The law provides a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both.