By Brittany Hailer
For the Pittsburgh Current
Interactions between Allegheny County police officers in riot gear and protesters rallying for police-shooting victim Antwon Rose Jr. got a bit tense Thursday evening.
The march and rally was held to demand the revocation of East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld’s bail, that Rosfeld be fired and that East Pittsburgh Police enact better policies to screen new hires.
On Thursday, aout 100 protesters gathered outside East Pittsburgh Police Station and Municipality Building starting at 3:30pm. They called for the firing of Michael Rosfeld, the officer who fatally shot 17 year old Antwon Rose in the back as he was trying to flee a traffic stop. Rosfeld was charged with criminal homicide Wednesday. He was set free the same day on unsecured bond. Senior District Judge Regis Welsh initially set a $250,000 unsecured bond for Rosfeld, meaning he didn’t have to pay anything.
Also on Wednesday, 50 or so protestors stood outside Rosfeld’s residence for about an hour. They chanted, “We’re white and we’re black. We will be back.” Neighbors watched from porches as demonstrators held a moment of silence for Rose. When the crowd dispersed some asked the folks standing on stoops, “You know your neighbor is a murderer, right?
Thursday’s protest intensified when marchers, who had begun blocking traffic, were met by Allegheny County Police officers in riot gear at Electric Avenue. About 100 protestors were met by about 15 police officers in riot uniform. Women with children were told to turn around and head back. County Police Chief Coleman McDonough told march leaders that the march could go no further. The the other officers stood at attention in silence.
In response many protesters sat or kneeled in the street and chanted “Three shots in the back. How do you justify that?” In minutes, more police officers in riot gear arrived at the scene. They marched and formed lines behind the first barrier. Some officers formed a line behind a nearby building behind the crowd. There were at least 50 police officers in riot gear on Electric Avenue.
Marchers had started to retreat when the men from the protest group linked arms and held their ground as the rest of the group walked forward. The police line started to advance as protestors retreated. Some protestors accused police of antagonizing them. One officer in particular continued to smile as protestors became more agitated.
Then, Braddock Mayor and Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, John Fetterman arrived on scene and talked with McDonough and two other officers.
McDonough said, “The last thing I want to do is arrest anybody.”
Fetterman said, “I just want to make sure everyone is safe.”
Fetterman stayed at the police line as protestors gathered at the opposite end of the street. 100 protestors prayed while police in riot gear watched and a mayor paced back and forth.
A man leading the group in prayer said, “We ask you, Lord, to look down on us…help us to change what has been illegal..bless us with your mercy.” The protest ended without arrests or injuries.
Earlier in the protest, Duquesne Mayor Nickole Nesby addressed the crowd outside the East Pittsburgh Police Station Thursday.
She grew up with Rose’s mother. She knew Rose personally and remembered him as “full of life” and “charismatic.” She went to Kennywood with him and the movies. He also volunteered for Nesby at the City of Duquesne. He was supposed to meet her “that Friday” to do volunteer work, but he was killed on Tuesday.
“And now we are actually being killed by the people who were actually put here to protect and serve us.” Nesby said.
Nesby said that Rosfeld had interviewed with the City of Duquesne Police Department but was not hired. Nesby said if he had been hired, “this would be happening in my city.” She said that Duquesne is 70% African American and “based [on Rosfeld’s] background, he wouldn’t have been a good fit for the City of Duquesne.” She urged the crowd to get out and vote and asserted that people in powerful positions do not have their best interests at heart.
The Rose family’s attorney has said Rose’s past as an officer was checkered
Just outside the police station’s doors, people in attendance lit candles, hung balloons and placed flowers in remembrance of Rose. A woman brought a giant teddy bear with three bullet holes drawn with marker onto it’s back.
Protestors then made their way down Beech Street, turned left and eventually shut down a section of the Tri-Boro Expressway. The expressway was blocked off by police vehicles and the march was led by escort.
By 5 p.m., traffic started to form as the group made a circle and sang “What side are you on, my people? What side are you on?” At one point a frustrated driver shouted obscenities out his vehicle before turning around. The group marched back down the expressway and gathered at the intersection of Electric Avenue. The crowd sang and chanted. Children started to gather at the fringes with their own hand-drawn signs on notebook paper. One sign read, “We do this for Antwon Rose.”
Clarification: This story has been changed from the original, adjusting the number of police officers in riot gear.