As Michael Rosfeld trial begins, mood calm, respectful outside courthouse

JASIRI X

As Michael Rosfeld trial begins, mood calm, respectful outside courthouse

For a day, at least, civil rights advocates heeded a grieving mother’s public call for no protests during the Michael Rosfeld trial. There were a few encounters Tuesday — over roses, over a painting — between police and people sympathetic to Michelle Kenney, the late Antwon Rose II’s mother, and her family, but the mood outside the courthouse was very quiet.

It was almost as if Downtown was holding its breath.

Sections of Grant Street, Forbes and Fifth avenues and Ross Street adjacent to the courthouse were closed while the trial was in session, and the first witnesses took the stand in the prosecution of the former EAst Pittsburgh police officer who shot Antwon on June 19. Security was heavier than usual. Officers mounted on police horses rode down Grant Street in front of the courthouse, and other officers were posted in their vehicles near street barricades.

Mr. Rosfeld’s defense is that the shooting was justified, in part because Antwon was fleeing from a car that was involved in a drive-by shooting 13 minutes earlier.

Tuesday morning began with the peaceful hanging of handcrafted purple roses — that was Antwon’s favorite color — outside the Allegheny County Courthouse. Members of Bend the Arc’s Pittsburgh chapter and 1Hood Media strung the roses — made of made of felt, acrylic yarn and beads — on trees outside the courthouse before the start of the trial, as a sign of support for Ms. Kenney.

“The reality is we can’t even mourn for Antwon right now because we’re defending him,” said Pittsburgh rapper and activist Jasiri X, co-founder of 1Hood Media.

Pittsburgh police officers asked the volunteers if they had a permit to decorate the trees, but did not prevent them from doing so.

Bend the Arc representatives said they wanted to honor Antwon and his family with the roses so the “family and community feel the same outpouring of love and support that the Pittsburgh Jewish community received” after the October Tree of Life synagogue massacre, in which 11 worshipers were slain.

Members of 1Hood Media tried to place a memorial display, including a portrait of Antwon, on a courthouse ledge just outside the entrance. Police asked the activist group to remove the display, but the group instead changed its tactics.

“We’ll hold this as long as we have to,” said Farooq Al-Said, director of operations for 1Hood Media, as he held the portrait aloft. Group members and supporters took turns holding the portrait, but after roughly 30 to 45 minutes, they left Grant Street as many began filing into the courthouse to attend the trial.

Jasiri X said 1Hood Media and other activist groups have agreed to respect the wishes of Antwon’s mother that there be no protests during the trial, but he said protests could erupt depending on the verdict.

“It’s a 100 percent guarantee,” Jasiri X said, that there will be protests if Mr. Rosfeld is found not guilty. “The focus needs to be on what Allegheny County and the city are going to do to make black people feel safe.”

Antwon was black. Mr. Rosfeld is white.

Some supporters of the family stood outside as the trial commenced, after spending time viewing the trial in an overflow room that seats 120. Supporters said that while Ms. Kenney may not know them, they were there to show they care.

Originally posted here: https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2019/03/19/michael-rosfeld-antwon-rose-trial-pittsburgh-courthouse-Atmosphere-calm-respectful/stories/201903190121