Main Photo: A child bangs a drum at protesters close down the Parkway East near Forest Hills Thursday night.
(Current Photos by Jared Wickerham)
Story By Rebecca Addison
PC Senior Staff Writer
The Parkway East near Forest Hills was closed in both directions Thursday night as protesters gathered on the highway to protest the death of Antwon Rose, an unarmed 17-year-old black teen who was shot by a police officer as he ran from a traffic stop in East Pittsburgh Tuesday night
It marked the third protest since Rose’s death. .
Earlier this (or Thursday)evening protesters marched near the East Pittsburgh police station, also blocking traffic on surface streets of the small suburban town of roughly 2,000 residents. Police were on the scene, but as of presstime, no one had been arrested.
In the days since Rose was shot and killed by East Pittsburgh Police officer Michael Rosfeld, the response by citizens locally and nationally has been swift. Officers claim the car Rose was driving in matched the description of a car involved in a shooting that had happened minutes earlier.
“It’s devastating to consider how complete this loss is,” said artist Vanessa German at an event in Pittsburgh earlier Thursday. “I don’t know how to reflect upon this because it’s still happening and it’s so utterly final and terrifying because the police are very scary.”
German and fellow artist Jasiri X were scheduled to speak at a conference centered around the First Amendment at the August Wilson Center earlier Thursday. Their talk was meant to examine the role of the First Amendment in artistic expression, but in light of recent events, they used their allotted time to talk about the issue of police brutality against people of color.
“I refuse to not feel. I refuse not to be grief stricken,” German said at the conference.
Jasiri X also spoke at a protest Downtown earlier today, where hundreds flooded Grant Street in front of the Allegheny County Courthouse to denounce Rose’s death.
At the protest, Jaisiri X criticized Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s handling of past incidents of alleged police brutality against people of color, including the 2012 shooting of Leon Ford, who was paralyzed during a traffic stop, and Jordan Miles, who was beaten by three undercover police officers in 2010.
“This is a referendum on District Attorney Stephen Zappala, he has always stood with the brutalizing police officers and he’s never stood with the oppressed black and brown people of Allegheny County,” said Jasiri X. “He didn’t prosecute police officers, but he put charges on Jordan Miles. He didn’t prosecute those police officers that brutalized Leon Ford but he put charges on Leon Ford.”
Earlier today, the district attorney’s office released the following statement:
“District Attorney Zappala met this morning with Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough and Lt. Andy Schurman and received a detailed and thorough briefing on the officer involved shooting in East Pittsburgh that resulted in the death of Antwon Rose. The investigation remains ongoing at this time,” said spokesperson Mike Manko. “Out of respect for the grieving process that the family and friends of Mr. Rose are going through and the upcoming Monday funeral for Mr. Rose, District Attorney Zappala will not have any further comment until next week.”
State legislators have stepped forward to call for a thorough investigation into the shooting. Pittsburgh-area African-American representatives Jake Wheatley, Austin Davis, and Ed Gainey released a video from Harrisburg earlier today that also included condolences for Rose’s family.
“We’re calling on the district attorney’s office as well as the Allegheny County police to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation so that all questions are answered in a way that builds community and police relations,” said Davis.
At a press conference Wednesday, Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said Rose was unarmed when he was shot and killed. According to the police, two weapons were recovered from the vehicle.
“At approximately 8:20 PM, County 9-1-1 received multiple calls reporting that shots were fired and that a male had been shot in the 800 block of Kirkpatrick Avenue in North Braddock. Callers reported that a vehicle was seen fleeing the scene, and were able to provide a description of that vehicle. North Braddock Police and paramedics responded and found a 22-year-old male who had been shot. He was been transported to a local trauma center where he was treated and released,” the Allegheny County Police Department said in a statement.
“Information on the vehicle that fled the North Braddock scene was put out over the air for neighboring police departments to assist/respond. An East Pittsburgh police officer saw a vehicle matching the description on Grandview Avenue which also had ballistics damage to the rear window. The officer stopped the vehicle near Grandview and Howard Street in East Pittsburgh. The officer took the driver into custody. While he was putting the driver into handcuffs, two other occupants ran from the car. One individual – a 17-year-old male – was shot by police. He was transported to McKeesport Hospital where he was declared deceased.”
Regardless of the police department’s explanation of the incident, local activists say the officer was not justified in shooting Rose.
“Unless you are black, a black woman, a black woman with a son, you don’t know how it feels to have these people tell you, they were justified murdering your child,” Brandi Fisher, president of the Alliance for Police Accountability said at the Downtown press conference Thursday. “You don’t know how it feels when you have a whole country asking you, what did he do to deserve to be shot. You don’t know how it feels to have your humanity second guessed and questioned. You don’t know how it feels to cry at night when your son doesn’t answer his phone. This hurts. This is real. This is affecting us.”
Jared Wickerham contributed to this report