Updated 7:17 p.m.
Less than two days after 17-year-old Antwon Rose Jr. was shot and killed by an East Pittsburgh police officer, protesters gathered at the Allegheny County Courthouse to demand that the officer involved be held accountable and that the eyes of a nation not look away.
Speakers at today’s two-hour rally called for attendees to get involved and vote and urged voters to oust Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala.
“You need to be in the streets… They need to see how many people care about this issue,” Brandi Fisher, president of the Alliance for Police Accountability, told the crowd.
Hundreds gathered, spilling into and shutting down Grant Street, chanting “Say his name: Antwon Rose Jr.,” and “No justice, no peace.”
Rose was shot three times Tuesday as he ran from a car that had been pulled over in East Pittsburgh, a borough located 11 miles southeast of Downtown Pittsburgh. Widely circulated eyewitness video shows Rose and another individual running and almost immediately being fired upon by an officer at the scene. Authorities said Rose was shot three times and pronounced dead about 40 minutes later. He was unarmed.
The East Pittsburgh officer who fired shots had been sworn-in just hours earlier, but had seven years of prior experience with other area departments, KDKA-TV reported. That officer was identified today as Michael H. Rosfeld, the Post-Gazette reported. An investigation is underway. Officials said the officer stopped the vehicle Rose was seen fleeing from because it was believed to have been involved in a non-fatal shooting in nearby North Braddock minutes earlier.
S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer representing the Rose family, told The Incline he is aware of no evidence directly tying Rose to the North Braddock shooting and that he believes this to be an unjustified homicide by a law enforcement officer.
Speakers passed the mic between chants from the crowd and called for justice — saying settlement payments aren’t enough and won’t bring Rose back.
Ayodeji Young, a board member of the Alliance for Police Accountability, said the organization is calling for a “full, open investigation” into Rose’s death, which Young and others throughout the rally called a murder.
When Young took the mic, he asked the crowd to look around at all the black men in attendance.
“What you’re looking at is experts, expertise in police brutality,” he said.
Today’s rally followed one last night in East Pittsburgh and included a slate of speakers, including Leon Ford, who was shot and paralyzed by police during a traffic stop in 2012. In January, he received a $5.5 million settlement from the City of Pittsburgh.
He called for the crowd to hold politicians accountable and elect those who will make systemic change.
“I fought for six years, and I thought that this wouldn’t happen again,” he said, adding that he sat with Rose’s mom earlier this week, feeling guilty that he survived and the teen didn’t. “So here we are again protesting. How long will it last?”
He said it’s Rose who will change the city forever. As he spoke, Ford started tearing up, but continued as the crowd shouted words of support.
“We can’t afford not to step up, not to speak up … while we are out here speaking and protesting, somebody is getting gunned down, whether it’s by the police or somebody in the community,” Ford said.
Zappala’s office released a statement, as hundreds rallied on the steps of the Downtown courthouse, where his office is located.
District Attorney Zappala met this morning with Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough and Lt. Andy Schurman and received a detailed and thorough briefing on the officer involved shooting in East Pittsburgh that resulted in the death of Antwon Rose. The investigation remains ongoing at this time.
Throughout the rally, speakers urged the crowd to remember to vote, and volunteers distributed voter registration forms in the crowd.
They also urged the crowd to support a candidate to oust Zappala who is up for re-election in 2019, saying they don’t believe the DA will bring justice for Rose. Earlier today, the Black Political Empowerment Project called for the case to be passed onto the Attorney General’s Office of Pennsylvania.
“It matters who you put in positions,” Fisher told the crowd, adding that if people vote they can have people representing them who think, love and look like them.
Summer Lee, democratic candidate for Pa. House District 34, took the mic saying people have the power to make change — just as they did in Woodland Hills School board elections and in her campaign, where she defeated current state Rep. Paul Costa in the May primary. She said it’s not about fighting the power, but seizing it.
“We have power to move right now,” she said.