This week another unarmed black man was killed by a police officer, this time right here in my home town of Pittsburgh. From the massive protests taking over our city and the response on social media, it is clear that people are outraged. However, there are also some people that seem apathetic to it all, perhaps because it has become so common in the past few years. We can only hope this death will not be in vain if we make the demand change and don’t let this get brushed under the rug like so many other crimes committed by cops have been.
I cannot imagine the fear that is experienced when you fit into a demographic that is constantly being targeted. A friend of mine from high school made a powerful statement comparing the cops behavior to them trying to receive a prize “What’s on my mind? Being a black man in America!!! Why do I say this? The reason is because black woman men and children are being slain left and right and treated like we’re the biggest prize too shoot.” I had never really thought about it like that but he does make a point. The bigoted, irrational, emotion driven officers do seem to treat human life as the newest form of trophy hunting. In another group I saw a woman say “as a white woman I wouldn’t run”. Well big fucking surprise there. White woman don’t have to run because the odds of them meeting a fate like Philando Castile did when he stayed in his car and was killed in front of his child are virtually zero. Anyone who wants to try to argue that young black men are not targeted is clearly ignorant to the world and needs to educate themselves before speaking out again.
I cannot even imagine the pain Antwon’s mother must be feeling. The thought of losing one of my stepsons is incomprehensible. A few years ago it was around midnight when we received a knock on the front door. There were several cops and my stepson standing on the front porch. It turns out that my 16 year old stepson decided to take a walk in the middle of the night and it just so happened that at the same time there were reports of people breaking into cars. We were living in Arlington at the time, anyone who knows the city of Pittsburgh will know that it is not the best neighborhood. Well the cops saw my stepson and ordered him to stop. He ran. Was he shot? No. Tased? No. Chased and tackled? Yes. He was also not arrested, cuffed or seriously injured… he was returned to us safe. Don’t get me wrong, even as an Atheist I wanted to thank God that he was brought home to us without more than being a little sore and incredibly scared. Had an officer like Michael Rosfeld been on duty that night it could easily have turned out much differently.
I keep seeing people saying this is “anti-police” and this is just ridiculous. No rational person believes that all cops are bad. What people do see is that cops need to be held accountable. They cannot be judge, jury and executioner (dear lord, stop being the executioner). What we need is for it to be clear that a cop cannot break the law , just as a civilian can’t. If a cop commits a crime, he is held accountable, period. The type of officer who reacts this way is certainly not the majority. There are good officers out there and I am thankful that they want to protect the citizens. In my life I have had officers help me and was so grateful that I took the time to call the commander and make a statement as to how much their compassion meant to me. That being said, we cannot keep letting the bad cops tarnish the reputations of the rest of the force. The new recruits coming in year after year are seeing that they are not just enforcing the law, but are above it, and this will only make things worse. We need to find a way to ensure that all officers are mentally and emotionally capable, educated and equipped with not just a gun, but with cameras, audio and respect for human life. In this case the officer was a veteran. There were a bunch of headlines declaring that he had only been sworn in hours before this homicide took place- and while true, it is misleading. He had just been sworn in as an East Pittsburgh Police Officer but he had worked at other departments, including the University of Pittsburgh, for over 7 years. So this was not some freak rookie accident, he should have known how to conduct himself.
The protesting in Pittsburgh has been intense. It has gone on every single day since Antwon died. I have seen people complaining online that these protests are an inconvenience to them. That people blocking a road lengthens their commute. Well too damn bad for you. One of the most ridiculous things I witnessed was someone saying that we should wait until all the evidence is in before protesting… um…. there is a video of an unarmed kid getting shot in the back, what more do you need? Honestly, had a civilian not been filming the slaying of Antwon Rose all we would hear is that it was a car stop gone wrong and another trouble maker is off the street. Considering that the cars were not equipped with cameras and the officer wasn’t wearing a body camera it would have just been his word. Even with the video we have people saying that we don’t know what happened before that video but guess what IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT HAPPENED BECAUSE HE NEVER SHOULD HAVE SHOT AT HIM. One of the most disgraceful things that happened was when one of the major Pittsburgh news stations decided to make headlines with a false narrative that there was a video of Antwon Rose committing a drive-by shooting and that gun powder residue was found on his hands. The Allegheny County homicide team had to speak out to say that all of that is false… but the damage has been done. Everyone reads the headline but almost no one sees the retraction. What was really pathetic was how many people seemed to be disappointed that it wasn’t true. It is like they just wanted it to be over, no justice necessary… but that is not how it works.
I don’t even know how to end this except to say that Antwon’s loved ones are in my thoughts and that I will continue to spread the word in hopes that it will bring justice. Keep exorcising your right to peaceful protest and know that there are lots of people supporting you. R.I.P. Antwon Rose.