As students walk out for Antwon Rose, his mother urges Woodland Hills students to stay put
As hundreds of students marched in Downtown Pittsburgh to honor Antwon Rose II, kids at Woodland Hills High School, where Rose was a student, stayed put.
They stayed at the request of Rose’s mom.
“There is nothing to accomplish by walking out,” Michelle Kenney said to the group of Woodland Hills students gathered in the auditorium Monday morning. “We want to the world to notice? They see us. You want the world to remember Antwon’s name? Everybody knows it. I’m trying to figure out what you guys think you’re going to accomplish when you walk out the door.”
She said she’d have never let her son get away with walking out. Pittsburgh high school and college students organized a peaceful protest late Monday morning at the Pittsburgh City-County Building.
“Anybody who knows me knows that if Antwon was about to leave at 12 o’clock, I would be up here in his face in that door,” she said. “Now I’m up here in your business because Antwon isn’t here, and now you’re stuck with me.”
Kenney said later she hadn’t planned what she was going to say.
“I didn’t think about it for 30 seconds — I got up there and said to them what I would have said to Antwon,” she said. “I didn’t have to plan that, I’m a mother.”
Many speakers, including high school principal Phillip Woods and activist Leonard Hammonds, spoke to the children before Kenney arrived. She drew a standing ovation, hugs and tears.
“I only came here because I’m concerned for your safety,” she told the students. “Any police interaction can go real bad, especially when you guys have a whole lot of emotion that you don’t know what to do with. All I ask is that you not participate in what everybody else is doing.”
And so Monday afternoon, Rose’s former classmates stayed in school.
Kenney told them the fight now is in the legwork – voting, taking action and changing the law that allowed the acquittal of Michael Rosfeld, the East Pittsburgh officer who shot and killed her son when he ran from a felony traffic stop last year.
“The law is written in a way that police have the ability to take a life with no consequences,” she said. “So the best thing you can do is help me change that law.”
In Downtown Pittsburgh, teens and young adults marched for hours.
“My mom let me come,” said Jazmire Yeyo, 17, a student at City Charter High School. “I think it’s important for me to be here because I’m an African American youth living in America and it’s important that we all support each other. We should be able to walk outside and do whatever we want to do within the parameters of the law.”
Downtown traffic was at a standstill as the group marched along Grant to Liberty Avenue and along Wood Street to the Boulevard of the Allies. No one was arrested.
The chants have become rallying cries.
“Three shots to the back. How do you justify that?”
“What was his name? Antwon Rose. How old was he? 17.”
Frank Williams, 39, of Penn Hills said he allowed his son, Khalil, to leave middle school and march with him. He said it was important for Khalil to witness the protest.
“I want to show support for people we care about,” Khalil, 13, said. “I don’t think anything’s going to change.”