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Jun 20, 18

A Report from the Front: East Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose

The following is a report on street demonstrations that broke out today in East Pittsburgh following the police murder of a 17 year old unarmed, African-American, Antwon Rose.

By. Comrade R

As I drove to the East Pittsburgh police station today a lot of thoughts were going through my mind. I have been to a lot of street actions over the years but have not taken the streets in the Burgh since the G20 protests of 2009. I wondered if Pittsburgh would turn out with the numbers and intensity that I know we are capable of or was I showing up to yet another planned action that did not materialize.

“This community had come together and fearlessly took the streets, they organized and rallied around one another in a way I have not seen since the days duckin’ tear gas during the g20.  It was beautiful, and it seems the momentum is only growing.”

The issue shouldn’t be controversial. A child was shot in the back multiple times running from police. There should not be another side to the situation other than “a child running from the police is never a justification to kill him.” But this is 2018 America and you get the usual bullshit “we don’t know all the facts” or “he should not have been running, he should have listened to the police.” You see the video, he runs from the car and is shot in the back. Murdered. So now for me the question was are we going to turn out and demand justice or not?

I approached the police station at 6pm in my usual protest attire, black from head to toe. When I rounded the bend, there was already a crowd gathered and a strong black woman was emotionally pleading into the megaphone for justice.  I got the familiar butterflies that accompany such a scene. I got them in Chicago in 2012 at the ‘No NATO’ protests, I got them in New York City during Occupy, and I got them again today.

This situation was different though from what I have been to before. This was not a long-planned protest with out of town protest veterans to coordinate a march. This was the community hurting over yet another young black life taken by the hands of police. (A police officer who was sworn in hours before none the less.)

This community turned out for Antwon en masse. The rally grew in size and then it turned into a march. Beautiful, strong, black men and women at the front demanding accountability. If this was an anti-capitalist march I would be in the front trying to coordinate and keep the group tight and try to avoid us getting kettled. But I am a white male who lives half an hour away from EP. I have no right to try and swoop in and start trying to sway a thing. I am there to show support and demand justice with the people of this East Pittsburgh community. I am there to participate in any direction this community decides this march is going.

What happened next makes me so proud to call Pittsburgh my city. The march took the major intersection of Electric Av and Braddock Av bringing traffic to a complete stand still. The march at this time had doubled in size at least and we were not moving. Officers asked everyone to clear the streets, but those requests fell on deaf ears. The people were here, they were together, they were united, and they were demanding justice. The megaphone got passed around and some told of what a great and kind kid Antwon Rose was. Others got on the microphone and talked of unity and how great it was to see everyone come together. People in cars honked and put their fists out the window in solidarity.

The police used a tactic that I had seen before and recognized. The police line at one end of the intersection started pulling back knowing the protesters by them would follow thus splitting the protest into two separate groups. The police line backed a hundred yards or so up electric av and they had almost successfully split it when people in the crowd started to notice this and pulled back to the intersection.

The tensest moment came when for some reason the police decided that driving the k-9 car through protesters, including children was a good idea. The reason for doing this is beyond my grasp. It inflamed the crowd and brave demonstrators stood in front of the car as it continued forward. The entire protest started converging on the car and the police followed. I have witnessed this plenty before and incident instigated by police as justification to bring out the gas or start the arrests. The officers on foot then had to escort the car back out of the crowd and a confrontation was narrowly averted but tensions were now heightened on both sides.

The next thing that took place was all of us linking arms in a large circle encompassing the entire intersection and pushing back up electric avenue. The people were united in their resolve to hold this intersection. We continued to say his name. Antwon Rose! Then at this time the rain saved the police from having to grapple with the fact we were not moving.

Everyone’s phones started receiving flood alerts and it started to pour rain. The march then moved under the overpass at the end of electric av while a handful of beautiful individuals continued to hold the intersection. Then the most emotional part of the day for me happened.

In 2012 while protesting the Republican National Convention in Tampa Hurricane Isaac was making its way towards Tampa and was dumping massive amounts of rain on us. We were not deterred, we danced in the rain through the streets. Such a beautiful thing to be a part of because the sense of unity you felt with those around you was indescribable. Almost as if the massive police presence around you did not exist and you were free. We belonged to each other. Today amid the torrents of rainfall people started sitting down on electric av. Becoming drenched and every time someone else would join cheers from the crowd beneath the overpass. Another and another followed. Sitting on the road fists held high. Then the children joined in. They started playing in the rain and running around with their fists in the sky. For the first time that day, anger and sadness gave way to smiles and a sense of unity that came on stronger and stronger with each passing lap from the children.

One side of the overpass up electric av there were people sitting in the streets in the pouring rain as children ran and played. Under the overpass a mass of bodies cheering them on. On the other side at the intersection, determined and fearless, a group still clung to the intersection not giving way. This community had come together and fearlessly took the streets, they organized and rallied around one another in a way I have not seen since the days duckin’ tear gas during the g20.  It was beautiful, and it seems the momentum is only growing. Justice for Antwon Rose is the cry and Pittsburgh showed up with determination to get it.

We will see how this unfolds but today I feel two things. Incredible sadness for a 17-year-old boy who I have learned so much about in the past 24 hours, and incredible pride for the people of my city. We absolutely without a doubt have the ability and the determination to be able to organize. Immensely encouraging. My heart is with the friends and family of Antwon Rose on this night as I write this. Solidarity forever.

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