An event Sunday that was publicized as an immigration protest turned into an all-encompassing forum for social justice activism as roughly 200 demonstrators marched through Downtown.
Participants addressed issues ranging from the shooting of Antwon Rose II to President Donald Trump’s immigration policy to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling against public sector unions.
The rally, which began at 2:45 p.m. at the North Shore end of the Roberto Clemente Bridge and ended by 4 p.m. in Market Square, was in part a reaction to the U.S. policy of separating children from their parents at the Mexican border when they are caught entering the country illegally. Under that “zero tolerance” policy, children have been housed in dormitory-style facilities near the border or transported to other facilities across the country, including Holy Family Institute in Emsworth.
Some marchers called for sweeping immigration reform, including a clear pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Immigration, though, was only one issue of many that activists addressed during the protest. Also on their minds was the recent death of Antwon, 17, who was shot June 19 by East Pittsburgh police Officer Michael H. Rosfeld, 30, of Penn Hills. After days of protests, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. charged Officer Rosfeld with criminal homicide Wednesday.
“If you watched the video [of Antwon’s shooting], you witnessed a murder. Point blank. Period,” Jasiri X, an activist, hip hop artist and founder of the social justice group 1Hood, said at Sunday’s march. “We shouldn’t be afraid to call it that.”
Some demonstrators called on the judge overseeing Officer Rosfeld’s case to send him to jail immediately. District Judge Regis Welsh Jr. released Officer Rosfeld on $250,000 bond with electronic home monitoring at the officer’s arraignment Wednesday.
Some protesters came to the demonstration after marching in an East Liberty protest for Antwon earlier in the day.
Demonstrators also decried the Supreme Court’s recent Janus v. AFSCME verdict, in which the court ruled that labor unionscannot require public sector workers to pay fees. Labor lawyer Nancy Parker, who addressed the crowd, said the verdict was aimed “to cripple unions, to divide workers.”
The mix of issues addressed by the protest was aimed to foster “solidarity” among activists who work on a variety of social justice causes, said Wasi Mohamed, executive director of the Pennsylvania branch of the Muslim social justice group Emgage and one of the rally’s organizers.
“All of us are under attack in some way, shape or form and it’s kind of saying to people, ‘We’ve got to come together, stand together and figure out how do we protect each other as well as our own communities,’ ” he said.
Faith leaders and community organizers from around Pittsburgh came together Sunday evening in a prayer service for social justice
The service, held at Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Larimer, came as protests continued Sunday about the police killing of Antwon Rose II.
While organizers barred the press from attending the service — they said due to its nature as a prayer service, not a protest — multiple attendees said the service was about more than the killing of Antwon Rose. They said faith leaders spoke a little bit about peacefully protesting the killing, but focused more on the broader notions of unity and justice.
According to multiple attendees, different Pittsburgh-area ministers prayed for different things: One for peace, another for the church, another for equality, another for love — and so on.
“It was a great example of different voices from around the community,” said Thomas Scuoteguazza, a deacon at Mount Ararat. “Everyone came together.”
Several sisters of St. Joseph who attended the service said leaders called for “dignity in all people.”
“It was an amazing experience,” said Richard Stevenson, a deacon at Morning Star Baptist Church in Clairton.
He said several youth spoke at the service. He said the event “gave kids the voice to say, ‘We’ve had enough.’”
For Davie Huddleston, president of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Pittsburgh chapter, a young man’s spoken word presentation at the beginning of the service really hit home.
“It was just excellent,” Mr. Huddleston said.
Lenicia Bentley, of Harrisburg, said the community had been upset that faith leaders had not been more involved in the current social justice movement. She said she thought the service was a good step in bridging the gap.
“There was some transparency,” she said. “I could see [the ministers’] pain.”
Eric Lowery, of East Liberty, agreed that faith leaders should use their voices to call for justice.
There are lots of means of activism, he said, but “prayer’s the most powerful “.