PITTSBURGH: Women-led Picket Confronts Abuser

by Samantha Murray

On April 6, working-class women and activists marched to picket Biddle’s Escape, a business owned by Joseph Davis in Pittsburgh. Davis has sexually harassed and assaulted women workers and patrons at his business, faking accountability processes and firing workers for coming forward.

The march also targeted Davis’s home which is across the street at 400 Biddle Avenue.

Biddle’s Escape has been facing a small campaign organized by Serve the People – Pittsburgh, who initiated a boycott as part of an effort to build a working class-led women’s movement.

Around 5pm, the picket group marched down Biddle Avenue towards Biddle’s Escape, chanting “abusive bosses deserve to die, women hold up half the sky” and “one solution, revolution” loudly and angrily. Davis’s residence is across the street, a large home that stands in contrast to the working class apartments and dwellings of Wilkinsburg at large.

As the picketing group got near the business, activists faced off against four counter demonstrators who immediately ran to confront the group. Davis’s ex-wife Michele Karleen Lackey joked when given evidence of the abuse one employee faced, saying “I fired her” and that she had “sexually abused [herself].” This group was repelled away by the picketers who pushed their way past them to the storefront, occupying the business entry way as well the entryway to the patio.

The police arrived at the scene and immediately showed themselves as defenders of private property and abusive small business owners Davis. Supporters of Davis continuously scuffled with picketers, but the picketers maintained discipline and pushed away the reactionaries.

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One woman picketer spoke to a large audience of community members who came outside to watch the picket. She pointed to the necessity of “making abusers afraid” and called on them to support the picket. One supporter said, “People think abusers are just in the White House, or are Harvey Weinstein, they can’t contemplate that they’d be your neighbor, but here [Davis] is! Now is your time to choose a side!” Another supporter passed out flyers explaining the picket and urging community members to honor it.

In the face of a few loud and violent counter-demonstrators, the picket and community supporters outnumbered them and the picketers’ chants drowned out the counter-revolutionary and anti-communist chants from Davis’s supporters.

As cover for his misogyny, Davis has allowed several left-wing musicians and artists to perform at the shop in the past and also holds several book readings and open mics at the shop. This has not been uncommon within Pittsburgh activist communities for men activists to engage in destructive transgressions against women with relative impunity, using their social prestige for sexual gain.

According to one organizer the picket will continue until Davis is driven to his end. He is no longer welcome in the city and will have his businesses picketed at every turn.