Passionate protesters remain peaceful in Pittsburgh streets after Rosfeld verdict
Hundreds of peaceful protesters spilled into the streets of Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland on Saturday, the day after former police Officer Michael Rosfeld was acquitted of homicide in the 2018 death of Antwon Rose II.
The protesters shouted for justice, encouraged people to vote and expressed frustration over the not-guilty verdict.
The demonstrations started at the Hill District’s Freedom Corner with a rally at 2 p.m., just 12 hours after protesters trickled off the streets of East Liberty, where they had gathered after the verdict.
Rose’s father, Antwon Rose Sr., addressed the crowd, thanking them for the constant support since the June 19 shooting of his son.
“I don’t have a lot of words,” he said. “Because I’m still stuck — I’m really still stuck.”
Leonard Hammonds gestured toward Rose Sr. as he spoke.
“No father should have to endure what he’s experience right now,” Hammonds said. “This kind of pain that we’re experiencing — think about what he’s experiencing. We’re experiencing a piece of it, but he has to deal with it as a whole.”
Hammonds, a speaker and activist, told the crowd of more than 100 that they must vote if they want change.
“I’m tired of it,” he said. “I’m tired of marching. I’m tired of chanting. We have to carry our pain to the polls.”
Pittsburgh police reported no arrests or damage to property as of 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
“As was the case last night, it was passionate and peaceful,” Chris Togneri, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said.
From there, the protesters spilled into the streets, marching down Center Avenue toward PPG Paints Arena. They formed a large circle in intersections, chanting for justice.
“Say his name. Antwon Rose II,” they shouted. “How old was he? Seventeen.”
For more than two hours, they wound through Downtown and parts of Uptown, singing and chanting, circling up in intersections and carrying signs.
“Three shots to the back, how you justify that?” they chanted.
Police on bicycles and in marked and unmarked cruisers kept ahead of the crowd, moving to each intersection before them to keep traffic away. The protests were peaceful, even when marchers wove their way through stopped traffic.
“What side are you on, my people, what side are you on?” they sang. “We on the freedom side.”
Early on, near PPG Paints Arena, the protesters paused and squared off with police lining the sidewalk.
“Who did this? The police did this,” they shouted.
Rose was shot and killed as he and another teen, Zaijuan Hester, ran from a felony traffic stop in East Pittsburgh. The car in which they’d been riding was stopped by Rosfeld because he thought it matched the description of the vehicle suspected in a drive-by shooting minutes earlier.
A jury of seven men and five women deliberated for less than four hours Friday before finding Rosfeld not guilty of homicide charges.
The Downtown march broke up shortly before 5 p.m. after protesters reached Market Square. Another planned protest began about 5:30 p.m. in Oakland. The group met at Schenley Plaza.
Protesters named three demands: That Pittsburgh police union president Robert Swartzwelder be fired; that District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. be fired; and that Allegheny County form a police review board.
“Hey hey, ho ho, Steve Zappala has got to go,” they chanted.
Allegheny County Council has taken preliminary steps toward forming a police review board. Zappala issued a statement Friday night where he respectfully disagreed with the verdict. He is facing a primary challenge from Turahn Jenkins, the former chief deputy director in the Allegheny County Public Defender’s Office who announced his candidacy in the wake of the Rose shooting. Swartzwelder and the police union did not return requests for comment.
They marched from there, up Fifth Avenue and around Oakland, remaining peaceful but passionate. Designated marshals among the protesters reminded the group throughout the afternoon and evening not to antagonize police.
At one point, while the crowd was paused near Bigelow and Fifth in Oakland, someone threw a water bottle from the middle of the crowd. An organizer took to the bullhorn.
“This is not what we’re doing,” he said. “Please.”
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .