Antwon Rose activists demand Judge Manning not get Officer Rosfeld case

July 31, 2018
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Christian Carter, 18, of East Liberty stands with a group of people outside of District Attorney of Allegheny County, Stephen Zappala's office in the Allegheny County Courthouse waiting to read a list of demands to the DA, Friday, July 27, 2018.

Activists demanding swift justice for Antwon Rose II laid out a list of demands Friday at the Allegheny County Courthouse and took to streets in Downton Pittsburgh to reiterate those demands and denounce new, city-issued guidelines on protests.

Protesters went nose-to-nose with Pittsburgh public safety officials, chanting through bullhorns into the faces of Director Wendell Hissrich, Chief Scott Schubert and police spokesman Chris Togneri.

Hissrich, at one point, told protest leader Nicky Jo Dawson that the megaphone could be considered a weapon. Demonstrators demanded answers regarding city-issued guidelines regarding which intersections they can block, which they said keep them from protesting. Hissrich said the guidelines preserved their right to protest.

“You are imposing guidelines on people who have done nothing to hurt the public safety,” Dawson said and gestured toward the officers. “You’re protecting these people next to you.”

Some protesters called Hissrich profane names. Another called him a “white devil” and suggested protesting outside his home. Despite their vitrol toward the new guidelines, the protesters appeared to follow them throughout the day.

The protest began at the courthouse after demonstrators attempted to meet with District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. on Friday morning to no avail. They intended to deliver a letter outlining demands they have regarding the investigation and trial, including that Court of Common Pleas President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning not be assigned to the homicide case against East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld.

A spokesman for the office said Zappala has previously met with the Rose family to discuss their concerns and explain “how the judicial process is expected to unfold in this case.” Zappala would meet with the family again if they so desire.

The activists read the letter outside Zappala’s office, saying they believe Manning has a “strong relationship” with Patrick Thomassey, Rosfeld’s attorney. They questioned political contributions Thomassey made to a political action committees and noted that in 2007, Thomassey would not speak to the FBI regarding gifts he allegedly purchased for Manning.

Thomassey declined comment. An employee in Manning’s office said he cannot comment “on any pending matters.”

In 2007, investigators were looking into whether Thomassey and attorney Robert Stewart gave gifts to Manning in exchange for courthouse favors. No charges were filed.

Activists demanded that Rosfeld - who is free on $250,000 unsecured bond - be remanded to jail and that there be “a fair and just jury selection process, of folks who represent the community who experiences police brutality.”

They wanted Zappala to hand off the case to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who should try the case in Philadelphia.

“We’ve seen, in this case, the mishandling of justice from the bottom up,” Dawson said. “We have to take back power and place this case in the hands of someone who can operate beyond the bias of the courts and justice system of Greater Pittsburgh.”

Protesters demanded Hissrich open an investigation into a commander that some alleged used a racial slur in a meeting with protest leaders. Police later said in a statement that the commander - who they did not identify - was explaining to organizers why a motorist was arrested during a North Shore protest last month.

“While explaining the arrest during the meeting with protest organizers, the commander quoted what the motorist said,” which included the racial slur, officials said in the statement.

Protesters ended their demonstration in Market Square, where a live band played “Love the One You’re With” and turned the microphone over to prominent protester Dustin Gibson, who reiterated the demands regarding Zappala, Manning and Shapiro.

Melvin Pollard was eating his lunch in Market Square as protesters poured in. He questioned why some many police officers are necessary for a non-violent protest.

“There are eight or nine in this corner, 10 or so in that corner,” he said, gesturing around the square. “There isn’t this many down here on St. Patrick’s Day. Why do you need to have that show of force when African-Americans want to have a dispute?”

Pollard, 63, said he lived through the 1960s and hopes that people can see that the protests and demonstrations come from a place of frustration and fear. He said he fears for his three adult sons every day.

“We have people in this city who see this type of thing too often,” he said. “It’s like our children can be collateral damage.”

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