Hill District Rally In Support Of Rose Family Turns Into Downtown March

After rallying in support of the family of Antwon Rose Jr. in the Hill District on Saturday afternoon, a crowd of hundreds marched downtown, blocking streets and chanting “No justice, no peace!” and “Who did this? The police did this!”

The gathering started at 2 p.m. at Freedom Corner, a historic site in the Hill District neighborhood. State representative Ed Gainey told the crowd, “If we are not all accepted as Americans, if we feel that there’s different rules for different races, then we can never unify.” He added: “We gotta protect our sons because the numbers don’t lie…we need our young black men.”

*This post was updated at 6:41 p.m.

The crowd met at Freedom Corner in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, the historic launching point for social justice demonstrations.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Antwon Rose Sr. encouraged the young men of the crowd to study, read books, and stay off the streets. He also thanked the community for its support.

"It's very painful to see what happened, to sit there and deal with it," Rose's father, Antwon Rose Sr., told the crowd. "I just don't want it to happen to our city no more."

Afterward, he told reporters: "I want peace, period, all the way around. ... Just because there was violence doesn't mean that we counter that with violence."

Other speakers encouraged the crowd to mobilize, organize and take political action. One speaker said, “We’ve got to carry our pain to the polls.”

Some called for the removal of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, whose office oversaw the  prosecution of former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld.

Aerion Abney said the acquital of Rosfeld left many people felt angry, frustrated and disappointed—and he said those feelings are valid. 

Antwon Rose Sr., the father of Antwon Rose Jr. speaks to media following a rally in the Hill District on Saturday, March 23, 2019.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA
  "This is not normal. Justice is not something that should be aspirational. It should be equal for everybody. And unfortunately we are living in a day, in a time, in an age where our system does not recognize and appreciate black people the way that it should."

After the rally, the group moved down Centre Ave toward the Allegheny County Court House, then down Smithfield Street.

Police put officers on 12-hour shifts until further notice.

Protests continued in Oakland, where crowds gathered in Schenley Park. The group continued their earlier calls for the removal of Zappala and Fraternal Order of Police President Robert Swartzwelder. They also echoed their support for an Allegheny County Police Review Board, which would serve as an independent check on county police departments. The East Pittsburgh Police Department, where Michael Rosfeld worked, was disbanded last year. 

 “We might stay the night,” the demonstrators chanted. 

Earlier in the day, Allegheny County District Attorney candidate Turahn Jenkins said he believed the office of current D.A. Stephen Zappala could have done more for the family of Rose.

“I feel like Mr. Rose’s family was denied justice. I don’t feel like they put their best foot forward to try that case. And the fact that they didn’t call a use of force expert... It’s troubling, it’s troubling. And I don’t know what the explanation is for that.”

Jenkins said he believes the district attorney can be the source for criminal justice reform.

Throughout the demonstration, participants chanted "No justice, no peace!" and frequently sung "Antwon Rose was a freedom fighter and he taught us how to fight."
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

“They are the gatekeepers to our criminal justice system. They decide when someone is charged and they decide when someone isn’t charged.”

Jenkins said he hopes there won’t be future cases like this one, but if there are, it might be necessary to use a grand jury or to assign the case out to the state attorney general.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.