Hundreds gather in East Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg to pay tribute to Antwon Rose II and recognize Juneteenth

On Friday morning, roughly 50 purple and white balloons filled the East Pittsburgh sky to honor the memory of Antwon Rose II. Two years ago on this day, the unarmed Black teenager was shot and killed by a white East Pittsburgh police officer as he fled a traffic stop. The crowd of a few hundred people at the balloon release fell quiet. A solo drummer’s beat marked the tribute. Friday marks a significant and complicated day for African-American history and Black Pittsburgh-area residents.

Pittsburgh motorcycle officers Downtown during a June 4, 2020 rally against racism and police violence. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

Activists call for defunding the police. Here are 6 key stats about the $115 million Pittsburgh police budget.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death by a police officer in Minneapolis and other cases of police brutality, activists and Democratic lawmakers across the country are calling for the “defunding” of police departments. The idea raises many questions. What does “defund the police” mean? Is it viable? And what does Pittsburgh’s police budget currently look like?

The caption of an arbitration decision handed down on Jan. 9, 2020, which governs relations between the city of Pittsburgh and the Fraternal Order of Police.

Pittsburgh’s contract with its police has a lot to say about officer discipline. Here are the highlights.

The Allegheny County Black Activist/Organizer Collective demanded a dozen changes in policing policy, budgeting and staffing on Monday, June 15. The City of Pittsburgh's interactions with its roughly 900 police officers are governed by an arbitration decision handed down in January. That 30-page decision — which modifies past contracts and decisions — came after a year of evidentiary hearings, pitting the city against the Fraternal Order of Police [FOP]. While much of the contract deals with wages and benefits, it includes planks that govern procedures when an officer is the subject of a complaint, or is suspected of misconduct or criminal activity. The arbitration decision states:

Police can't be compelled to testify before the independent Citizen Police Review Board.

Protesters kneel in front of the Allegheny County Courthouse (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

‘The silence is what’s killing us.’ Public defenders protest against institutional racism in criminal justice system

Public defenders, social workers and activists on Monday kneeled in front of the Allegheny County Courthouse in Downtown Pittsburgh to protest institutional racism in the criminal justice system. “We, as public defenders, are here to say, ‘Black lives matter to us,’” Matt Dugan, chief public defender for Allegheny County, said to the crowd. Dugan called for an end to systemic racism in policing and criminal justice outcomes. Public defenders throughout the country held demonstrations on Monday, including events in Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C.

Several participants in Pittsburgh called for systemic changes to the criminal justice system, including defunding police and stopping the practice of laying disproportionate charges on  Black people. “The District Attorney’s office has to change their method of charging and overcharging people,” attorney Lena Bryan Henderson said to attendees.