Pittsburgh high school students rally for Rice


Protesters stop traffic on Forbes and Bigelow. | Jeffrey Ahearn / Assistant Visual Editor

Area high school students and community members gathered in Oakland Sunday evening to protest two professional investigations that said police officers in Cleveland acted reasonably in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

Timothy J. McGinty, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, prosecutor, released the reviews late Saturday, which a Colorado prosecutor and a former FBI agent conducted separately.

At 6:30 p.m. Sunday about 50 students and community members marched through Oakland, starting and ending in Schenley Plaza. Walking down Forbes Avenue, the protesters turned right up Meyran Avenue and right again up Fifth Avenue, before stopping traffic on the corner of Forbes and Bigelow.

Singing and chanting, “No justice,  no peace, no racist police,” the protestors carried signs and megaphones as they made their way around Oakland. Several police officers drove past the march in their cars, but none stopped or interfered.

Several different youth groups that organized the march had attended a youth conference earlier Sunday, which the Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, a multi-racial, intergenerational community organizing group,  had hosted at the Bethel AME Church in the Hill District as part of a weekend training program to teach students about community organization.

Joan Mukogosi, 17, from Squirrel Hill, said the conference was a big inspiration for the march Sunday night, which the groups organized in about six hours using social media to spread the word.

Although there were only about 50 protesters, Mukogosi said the passion was still strong.

The group stopped traffic at the intersection of Forbes Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard for about five minutes, which Mukogosi took as a sign of their success.

“The evidence of us making our statement is in the cars honking at us in anger. We’re already angry,” Mukogosi said. “The more they honked, the longer I wanted to stay there.”

Carlin Cohen, 20, from Homewood, said he thought it was important to protest because he thought “justice was not served.”

“He was 12 years old. The kid’s future was taken away,” Cohen said. “That could be any of us. That could be my little cousin.”

For Ada Griffin, 16, from Squirrel Hill, the dedication from today’s rally was more important than the crowd it drew.

“As a black woman, it’s important to protect yourself because no one else is looking out for us,” said Griffin, who attended the protest with her aunt. “If not us, then who?”

One marcher who was a community member, 70-year-old Mel Packer of Point Breeze, had worked with Mukogosi last year when organizers were protesting the death of Michael Brown. Packer, who has participated with social justice movements since the early 1960s, said he still comes out and demonstrates because he is “outraged.”

“I was just outraged,” Packer said. “Outraged but not surprised. People felt like they had to do something.”

The march ended with the protesters gathering in a circle in Schenley Plaza, chanting and dancing while brandishing signs reading “Justice for Tamir,” “No racist police” and “We will not be silent.”

Mukogosi told the marchers to “get their Snapchats out” as they raised their fists and drew the circle in, cheering and chanting “Hell you talkin’ ’bout?”

“When we do rallies, we try to end it on a hopeful note because activism is hard. We have to end it on a note of ‘We can do this,’” Mukogosi said. “I always leave ready to do another one.”