Cities like Pittsburgh can’t herald inclusive innovation without stepping up to protect black lives like Antwon Rose’s from police.
Two days after former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld was found not guilty of killing the unarmed teenager Antwon Rose II, an electronic billboard spotted in Armstrong County, about 50 miles north of Pittsburgh, displayed the images of Rosfeld and Rose side-by-side. The caption above Rosfeld’s photo read, “Policeman.” The caption above Rose’s picture read, “Criminal,” with overarching text that read, “Legal System Works.” Text below the photos stated, “Justice Served, Get over it.” It was one slide amidst a carousel of other racist images and messages. Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 reportsthat residents say the billboard belongs to local businessman John Placek.
Rosfeld is white; Rose is black. After Rosfeld pulled over a jitney—an unlicensed taxicab—that Rose was riding in, the police officer shot Rose in the face, elbow, and back as he fled from the vehicle, which had been reported as matching the description of an earlier drive-by shooting. The jury needed less than four hours of deliberation on just the fourth day of the trial before reaching a not guilty verdict. But we knew from the scarcity of arrests and even scarcer rate of convictionsof police officers that justice for police violence against African Americans is usually denied. What the “not guilty” ruling did was send yet another clear message that it’s OK to kill black people. And that criminal justice message is not much different than the socioeconomic message sent to African Americans throughout metro Pittsburgh every day.