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Students Walk Out Of Class, Demand Justice For Antwon Rose

Hundreds of high school and college students walked out of classrooms Monday morning demanding justice for Antwon Rose, the teen who was shot and killed in June by an East Pittsburgh police officer.

*This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available. 

Michael Rosfeld was found not guilty Friday night by a jury after a week-long trial. That verdict prompted rallies and protests throughout the weekend. A Facebook event page for the student walkout described the event as a “peaceful protest to celebrate the life of Antwon and the justice he deserved.”

An initial group of several dozen students marched from the City-County Building to the Allegheny County Courthouse, where they continued to demonstrate and chant "Justice. Shut it down."

The chants were followed with students saying "Three shots in the back, how do you justify that?" Some were passing out roses. 

Pittsburgh police officers blocked off parts of the road while the students demonstrated. 

Activist Christian Carter, speaking into a megaphone, told the crowd, "Back up, back up. We want freedom, freedom. Tell these racist ass cops we don't need 'em, need 'em."

As the rally continued, the crowd grew, stretching several blocks. They marched from the courthouse and formed a circle at the intersection of Grant and Liberty avenues, shutting down traffic. In the middle of the circle was a portrait of Antwon Rose, adorned with flowers. 

Demonstrators then marched down the Boulevard of the Allies, toward the parkway. However, police blocked the on-ramps to the parkway. 

Some adults showed up in support of the students. Sixty-nine-year-old retiree Janice Parks attended to support the youth effort.

“What happened to shooting people in the kneecap," she said. "It at least gives them a chance to speak for themselves, a chance to defend themselves, a chance to put the court to work in an honorable manner.”

She also added her voice to a call for greater accountability and changes for law enforcement.

“I don’t know if it’s training, if it’s cultural awareness, I don’t know what it is," she said. "I know that what is here does not work. How do we know? The child is dead. He was a child. He could’ve been mine.”

In response to the planned walkout, Pittsburgh Public Schools said students who leave without parent permission to demonstrate will receive “an unexcused tardy or absence as appropriate,” according to a statement released by the district Sunday.

Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA
Demonstrators carry a portrait of Antwon Rose while marching down Liberty Avenue downtown.

The statement said the district does not support students leaving during the day to “enter an unpredictable and potentially hazardous scene.”

The statement went on to say the district is coordinating with schools to assist with potentially difficult conversations that may arise with students, and that it will provide increased support through the Student Assistance Program.

“It is critical that we help our students find their voice during this challenging time," the district said in a statement. "We know that the death of Antwon Rose, the jury’s decision, the reactions of the community, and the coverage in the news media can be confusing, and at times frightening for our young people – many of who see themselves, family members and friends in Antwon. It is our responsibility to process this moment with our students in a way that honors not only their emotions but their abilities to impact change in our community. We are committed to this charge."

Rose, who was 17, had recently graduated from Woodland Hills High School just east of the city before he was shot by Rosfeld in East Pittsburgh.