120 join “Justice for Antwon” die-in on WPU steps


Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Around 120 students gathered outside the William Pitt Union on Wednesday afternoon for a silent and peaceful die-in demonstration, which lasted around 40 minutes.

By Emily Wolfe, Assistant News Editor

A crowd dressed overwhelmingly in black sat on the steps of the William Pitt Union shortly before 1 p.m. Wednesday. More stood nearby. Some signs read “Hands up, don’t shoot” or “Since when has blackness become a crime?” while others carried the names of black police-shooting victims. Unlike other protests that have taken place throughout the City over the past week, this one — a die-in in honor of Antwon Rose, organized by Pitt’s Black Action Society — was completely silent.

The assembly grew as some students got out of class and joined in, numbering about 120 for most of the 40-minute demonstration. It included both BAS members and others, mostly students. Among the non-members were Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner, who was at the WPU for a University Senate plenary but stopped by the scene of the die-in several times, and Student Government Board President Maggie Kennedy, who sat in silence with other demonstrators.

BAS president Edenis Augustin said he was glad to see people stop and join as they learned what was going on.

“Incidents like this are not isolated,” Augustin said. “They could happen at any place at any time. It may have happened to Antwon, but it could have happened to one of us that attend this school at some point in our lives.”

Augustin said he wanted to see a campus-wide show of support similar to the one that followed the Tree of Life shooting in October. He called that show of support “great and honorable,” but said he found Pitt’s response to the fatal shooting of Rose in June 2018 by former East Pittsburgh officer Michael Rosfeld, who was acquitted last Friday, lacking in comparison.

“We decided to take matters into our own hands and have our own demonstration,” Augustin said. “I hope the impact of this is that Pitt gets more in touch with the Pittsburgh community.”

Demonstrators left a clear path for nonparticipants to enter and exit the Union, though some students leaving by the front door turned around and went back inside when they saw what was happening.

But most people who passed the scene at least turned to look. Some took a printed list of demands from a BAS organizer, while others stopped to take a few seconds of video.

“I’ve never been videotaped so much in my life,” Jolia Ellis, a first-year communication major, said. “And I feel like they’re just going to post it on Snapchat and be like ‘Justice for Antwon’ just to feel like they’re woke.”

Andrew Francis, a first-year global studies major, picked up a sheet as he passed by. The first item on the list of demands, “Justice for Antwon Rose II,” was followed by the three demands common to many of the week’s protests and larger goals, including affordable housing and better public schools.

“I just got out of class,” Francis said. “I saw the protests that were happening the other day and I just think it’s great how everyone came together, especially since it happened so close to home.”

“I’m black,” Hailey Baxter, a first-year pharmacy major, said. “This is my future. You’ve got to think about the fact that at some point, I could have kids.”

“For me, it’s not even that I’ll have kids,” Baxter’s friend Tierney Washington, a first-year film major, added. “It’s that it could just be me, like really the same thing could happen and I would go unremembered. Nobody’s going to care, nobody’s going to think too hard about it until you do things like this … I’m talking to other black kids like, ‘Oh, I’m going to this protest for Antwon Rose,’ and they’re like ‘Who is Antwon Rose?’ And it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s that black kid who got killed.’ They’re like, ‘Which one?’ ‘The one who was running.’ ‘Which one?’”

“‘The one who was running away from that cop,’” Baxter added. “‘Oh, what cop? You mean a white cop?’”

Washington laughed a little. “Which city?”

In a statement released hours after a jury acquitted Rosfeld Friday, BAS called Rose’s death “senseless brutality.”

To Antwon, we are sorry that in one swift motion you are no longer with us and that in a trial that only lasted four days, the justice system sided with the man behind your death,” the statement read. “Your name will forever be remembered.”

Dahlia Remy, a BAS member, said she was glad so many people showed up to the die-in — and that the group included nonblack allies.

“It seems like when black people say anything, it seems like we’re just being angry and hostile or complaining,” Remy, a first-year psychology major, said. “I feel like having nonblack allies makes people more comfortable or makes people want to listen more. It’s not like we need nonblack approval, but we do need their support. It is very important that we have other voices with us.”

Remy and a friend, Marilyn Dongmo-Zebaze, both first-years who aren’t from Pittsburgh, said learning about the Rose shooting changed the way they viewed the City.

“Coming to school here, this was supposed to be our home away from home,” Dongmo-Zebaze, a nursing major, said. “The fact that this happened so close to our campus, to someone that looks just like us, means that it could be any of us.”

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