After six consecutive days of protests, the gas station where employees allegedly assaulted two Black women has been permanently shut down.
“GOOD NEWS. … That gas station has now been shut down and the men had their operator’s lease terminated. They won’t be doing business there ever again,” activist Shaun King wrote in a post on Instagram Friday (September 27).
“LISTEN TO ME: Collective action works,” King added. “Local activists have been their non stop. Our attention online and off made all the difference. Together we are strong. Assault charges are pending against all 3 men. From @cleezereport.”
About 50 Pittsburgh residents began a peaceful protest Saturday (September 21) after an incident took place at the Exxon gas station at 2501 Brighton Road on the North Side of the city on Friday (September 20), according to the Post-Gazette.
On Friday evening, police responded to reports of a fight between two Black women -- sisters Jamila Regan, 25, and Ashia Regan, 27 -- and owners at the gas station shortly before 7 p.m., the Post-Gazette reports.
The Regan sisters reportedly pumped gas at the station and when they noticed gas leaking, they went inside to request a refund.
Police reviewed multiple videos of the incident and said a female customer initiated the confrontation inside the store before the altercation continued outside and became violent, the Post-Gazette reports.
One video, reportedly taken by a witness, showed three men hitting one of the women in the back of the head repeatedly.
The Regan sisters were also reportedly held down on the ground while being hit multiple times and one of the women was dragged by the hair across the pavement by one of the men, according to video captured of the assault, the Post-Gazette reports.
The gas station workers insisted they were acting in self-defense against the women, who “attacked” them when they refused to issue a refund.
The sisters reportedly said the fight started when one of the employees pushed Ashia, according to the complaints, the Post-Gazette reports.
According to criminal complaints, the sisters allegedly demanded a full $17 refund for leaked gas, but the owners argued that it was only a small puddle of gas, which police later verified.
Pittsburgh Police recommended criminal charges against the owners and an employee, the Post-Gazette reports.
Protesters urged the community to stand behind the women in boycotting the gas station.
The protests continued for six consecutive days.
On Monday (September 23), the third consecutive day of protests, approximately 30 to 40 people gathered with signs that said, “Black Lives Matter,” “Black Women Matter” and “Vote,” outside the Marshall-Shadeland gas station on Brighton Road.
Among those protesting were members of churches, the NAACP and the Black Political Empowerment Project, according to the Post-Gazette.
That same day, the Allegheny District Attorney’s office filed assault charges against three men allegedly involved in the incident: Scott Hill, 50, who faces two counts of simple assault; Balkar Singh, 40, one count of simple assault; and Sukhjinder Sadhra, 35, two counts of simple assault, the Post-Gazette reports.
Hill has been identified as white, Singh as Asian, and Sadhra as unknown race, according to criminal docket entries, the Post-Gazette reports.
“Under no circumstances is it acceptable for anyone, regardless of gender or race, to be assaulted in the way that is depicted in the video and such behavior will not be tolerated in Allegheny County,” Mike Manko, a spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappla Jr. said, the Post-Gazette reports.
The Regan sisters are “traumatized” over the incident, a woman who identified herself as their cousin at Monday’s protest told the Post-Gazette.
Another woman, 56-year-old Benita Henderson, who said she’s their aunt, described the Regan sisters as “good people” that didn’t deserve what happened.
“Exxon and Mobil does not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment by any company representative,” spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry said in a statement Monday (September 23), adding how the company is taking the matter “seriously.”
However, Eikenberry also added that “Exxon and Mobil does not own or operate any retail fuel stations in the United States” and the stations are supplied by authorized independent branded wholesalers who either operate the stations directly or have a contractual relationship with an independent owner or operator, according to the Post-Gazette.
William Anderson, the director of the Allegheny County Democratic Black Caucus, was one of the protesters on Monday and said, “Statistics have just proven that African Americans are worse off here than anywhere else in the entire country. We are demanding that our democratic officials, leaders and our Democratic district attorney press charges immediately against these men who have assaulted these unarmed African American women.”
Anderson was referring to a report titled “Pittsburgh’s Inequality Across Gender and Race” released earlier this month by the city’s Gender Equity Commission (GEC), the first of four in a series led by the University of Pittsburgh researchers.
The report found that compared to those in similar cities, Black women in Pittsburgh face higher rates of maternal mortality and poverty along with lower rates of employment and college readiness, the Post-Gazette reported.
“Automatically by just moving, their life expectancy would go up, their income would go up, their educational opportunities for their children would go up,” Junia Howell, a University of Pittsburgh sociologist who worked on the report, told the Post-Gazette after it was first released.
“For many of Pittsburgh’s Black residents, these statistics are not surprising,” GEC said in a statement Tuesday (September 24) about the report.
As for the Regan sisters, Benita Henderson, the woman who identified herself as their aunt, told the Post-Gazette, “Emotionally they’re terrible and physically they’re in pain. They’re not feeling good at all. These are girls who have careers and jobs. One just got her associate degree and she’s back in school to get her bachelor’s. They’ve been through a lot and lost their mother to cancer years ago.”
“I was fearful of my life and that of my sister,” Jamila Regan said Friday (September 27) during a press conference in Downtown Pittsburgh at attorney Todd Hollis’ offices.
The 25-year-old woman struggled to speak as Hollis, who is also representing her sister Ashia, told reporters, “This sends a terrible message to the community about what people can and can’t do to women, not just Black women,” the Post-Gazette reports.
The company that owns the land and assets of the Exxon site, LGP Realty Holdings LP, said it is searching for a new operator who can “serve the community’s needs” after terminating the lease of the independent operator “following the results of the police investigation,” reports the Post-Gazette.