PITTSBURGH — Protests demanding justice in the East Pittsburgh cop killing of 17-year-old Antwon Rose continue throughout the area. They are pressing for the conviction for murder of Michael Rosfeld who shot Rose three times in the back after a traffic stop. The June 19 cold-blooded killing was captured on a cellphone video that has been viewed by hundreds of thousands.
The outrage against the killing has spanned workers of all nationalities across the region and beyond.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. filed charges of criminal homicide against Rosfeld. “You do not shoot somebody in the back when they are not a threat to you,” he told a press conference June 25. “I find that Rosfeld’s actions were intentional, and they certainly brought about the result he was looking to accomplish.” He said the evidence showed Rose was neither involved in any illegal activity, nor armed when he was shot down. Eyewitnesses told police Rose showed Rosfeld his empty hands, Zappala said.
The criminal homicide charge filed by Zappala could lead to five possible results, from premeditated first degree murder to involuntary manslaughter. Rose’s family members view the filing with “guarded optimism,” Fred Rabner, one of their attorneys, said.
“There is still a long road ahead to a conviction and proper sentencing, which is the only thing we will accept as justice,” Rabner told the press. “In this area of civil rights we know that from protests to policy is a marathon not a sprint, and we hope that this case has the endurance to change the landscape of the country on this important issue of police brutality.”
Protest leaders agreed, saying that was why they intended to continue to hold marches. “I’m happy that Antwon’s mother and family got an inkling of justice by getting charges filed,” said Brandi Fisher, president of the Alliance for Police Accountability, adding that the fight has really just begun. “Now we have to move forward toward getting a conviction.”
District Judge Regis Charles Welsh released Rosfeld after his indictment on an unsecured bond — the cop didn’t have to put any money or property down, even though the bond was ostensibly for $250,000!
“To offer no cash is very, very unique,” Rose family attorney S. Lee Merritt said. “It shows a system that is bent in favor of law enforcement.”
Broad working-class response
From the beginning protesters have gotten a powerful response from working people far and wide.
After the shooting, protesters took to the streets in a march that for a time blocked the I-376 Parkway East, engaging stalled drivers in discussion and debate. They expected resistance, but instead found support.
Two long-distance truck drivers based in Arizona got caught in the six-hour stoppage. They got out of their rigs to find out what was going on.
Gene and Robert, the two Caucasian drivers whose last names weren’t given, talked to protesters, who showed them the video of the killing, and then were interviewed by Beau Berman of WTAE television.
Berman thought they would be angry with protesters over being delayed for hours. But when he asked if that was true, Gene said no. “I think they’re doing a good thing. They’re going to get their point across, and you know that’s good,” he said. “Cause this killing has to stop. Not just here, but throughout the nation.”
Berman asks him what he would advise the DA to do. “Don’t try to cover it up, don’t try to push it underneath the carpet. That crap is over with, man,” Gene says. “We want action.” We’ll get over the delay, Gene says, but the Rose family, “That family is going to suffer for the rest of their lives.”
“Don’t do no whitewashing,” he said, “Let’s get it out in the open. Let’s get it taken care of, so this don’t happen no more.” They should charge the cop, Robert adds, “like we would be charged.”
The working-class response of the truckers wasn’t matched by many area political figures. The fight spread to Arnold, a community northeast of Pittsburgh, were Democratic Mayor Karen Peconi faced protests and demands for her resignation after she called for protesters to be “destroyed” and urged cops to deploy hoses and water cannons. “None of them work,” she said. After a new round of protests, she issued an apology.
Meanwhile, Timothy Riley and Jacob Schilling filed a lawsuit against Rosfeld for his attempt to frame them up in an arrest outside a bar near the University of Pittsburgh in December 2017. At the time he worked as a cop for the university, but was let go after evidence came forward he fabricated evidence in the case. The charges were quickly dropped.
Three hundred protesters, organized by Rev. Shanea Leonard of the Judah Fellowship Christian Church, marched in East Liberty July 1 to demand authorities file first-degree murder charges and revoke Rosfeld’s bail. More protests are planned.