Protests against the killing of 17-year-old African-American high school student Antwon Rose by East Pittsburgh cop Michael Rosfeld have continued since he was shot in the back June 19. Rosfeld was arrested and charged with criminal homicide, which could result in a conviction ranging from first degree murder to involuntary manslaughter.
Protests demanding he be convicted have spread around the Pittsburgh area and won wide support from working people. The Pittsburgh Gentlemen Motorcycle Club led 100 people in a march through Homewood June 30, demanding justice for Rose. Homewood is 98 percent Caucasian.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the home of East Pittsburgh Mayor Louis Payne July 8 and then marched to the corner of Grandview Avenue and Howard Street for a moment of silence where Rose was shot down.
Then they marched into the outbound lanes of Route 30. Cops and volunteer firefighters from nearby cities routed traffic around the protest.
“Just everybody coming together and seeing all races — it’s going to take everybody to see a revival, to see something happen, see change, no matter the colors,” 24-year-old Isaiah Jefferson from Monroeville told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Then one driver drove into the crowd, hitting a 21-year-old demonstrator. Cops arrested 69-year-old Ronald Hinerman, charging him with reckless endangerment.
Supporters of justice for Rose also spread out to Arnold July 8 after Democratic Mayor Karen Peconi went on social media to say that those who protest against the killing of Rose should be met with water cannons.
Her racist posts were met with a response from the city’s firemen. Speaking for both city firehouses, Arnold No. 2 Fire Chief Chris O’Leath said they “do not support or cordone” the mayor’s statements. “We do not answer to her or whoever the mayor happens to be,” he added. He was seconded by Arnold No. 1 Chief Walter Gouza, who said, “We would never go and turn our hoses on the public.”
Volunteers spread out across the town collecting signatures calling for the resignation of the mayor. Before Hannah McBean and Stephanie Lowry even got to knock on one door, they were flagged down by Melissa Charlton who said she wanted to sign. “Nobody should be in government if that’s the opinion they have of their residents,” she said.
A rally is set for outside the next City Council meeting July 10 before protesters deliver their petitions.
Cop beatings at Rose’s high school
A lawsuit filed in Pittsburgh last year puts a spotlight on racist brutality in the Woodland Hills High School, where Rose was a senior. The suit was filed by parents and guardians on behalf of five students, identified only by initials, who describe how they were cursed at and beaten by cops assigned to patrol inside the school and a former principal.
In March 2015, the suit says, Churchill Borough cop Stephen Shaulis carried out an unprovoked assault on A.W., choking him and slamming his head into the floor. The cop punched him and then, while the principal held A.W. on the floor, Shaulis used a Taser on him three times. Then he handcuffed him and dragged him into a room called the “Resource Office,” where there is no camera to record what happens, and continued to beat him.
Then Shaulis concocted false charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. A.W. was acquitted.
The same pattern runs through the attacks on other children in the suit.
Summer Lee, who graduated from Woodland Hills in 2005, told the Huffington Post that she was planning to join a June 20 protest about the cops in the school. After Rose was killed she joined those demonstrations.
Rosfeld’s lawyer and other defenders of the cops have said the fact that Rose ran from the cops shows he must have been guilty of something.
“When you think about where Antwon went to school,” Lee said. “He saw his friends getting beat up by these cops and how the justice system works against their abusers. Would that not inform your interaction with police officers?”
Rosfeld’s preliminary court hearing is set for July 27.
Malcolm Jarrett contributed to this article from Pittsburgh.