The ‘Queen of Talk Radio’ Bev Smith addresses the crowd of over 300 protestors who turned out Saturday afternoon outside of the Federal Building in Downton Pittsburgh. (Courier Photos by Rossano P. Stewart)
On July 20, more than 100 cities around the country held rallies protesting the acquittal of George Zimmerman who shot and killed unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last February. At a rally outside of the Federal Building in Downtown Pittsburgh, speakers drew parallels between the death Martin and the beating of local youth Jordan Miles by three Pittsburgh police officers.
Legendary rapper Paradise Gray from from X-Clan addresses the crowd.
“It’s ok for a Black boy to be living while Black and have his life taken. It’s ok for a Black boy to be living while Black and be beat down,” said LaTasha Mayes, executive director of New Voices Pittsburgh. “We know the history of our country. We know that Black people were seen as three-fifths of a human being and not much has changed.”
The event, featuring more than 20 speakers, was held in response to Rev. Al Sharpton’s national call to action. In addition to calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue civil rights charges against Zimmerman, the Pittsburgh rally organized by the Alliance for Police Accountability also called for a closer look at self defense laws like the Florida “stand your ground” law used in Zimmerman’s defense for killing Martin.
“We have to look at the language of these laws,” Brandi Fisher, president and CEO of the Alliance for Police Accountability. “It seems like the laws don’t protect us. We don’t have the right to stand our ground.”
Speakers compared Martin’s death to local and national incidents where African-American youth were killed or beaten by police officers. According to a recently released reported 146 unarmed Black men were killed by police officers in 2012 across the United States.
“Just like it’s open season on our sons in Florida, it’s open season on our sons in Pittsburgh,” said Ronell Guy, executive director of the North Side Coalition for Fair Housing. “This is about annihilating us. Anytime you can shoot an unarmed child, you know we have a lot of work to do.
The rally brought together a cross section of organizations including fraternities, sororities, and the nation of Islam.
“Our babies are dying in the street. I love my daughter. I love my nephews. Bomani Howze with Omega Psi Phi fraternity. “I swear to God, if anything like this ever happened to them, I’m going to stand my ground.”
“The Federal Building has never brought justice for us. So how are we going to bring justice? How many rallies must be held? How many marches,” said Charles Cook with the Nation of Islam. “I’m putting the blame on myself. Black men have to stand up.”
More than 300 attended the Downtown rally hoping to find a solution to the problem of racial profiling facing communities throughout the country. However, they also raised the issue of putting an end to Black-on Black violence.
“I definitely wanted to come out and support the cause,” said James McIntosh from Lawrenceville. “I want to see better treatment of Black people in Pittsburgh.”
“I lost my daughter’s father a while ago before she was born. So violence has touched my life,” said Radawn Jefferson of the NorthSide. “I’m tired of hearing about another Black man being killed.”
Rapper Jasiri X delivers a powerful message to the crowd of over 300 at the Federal Building.
Protestors came from all over western Pa. to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman and beating of Jordan Miles by Pittsburgh Police.
Brandi Fisher, president and CEO of the Alliance for Police Accountability, addresses the crowd as protestors hold pictures of Jordan Miles.
Pa. State Rep. Ed Gainey urges crowd to just say no to the new Jim Crow.
Pittsburgh City Councilman Rev. Rickey Burgess addresses the crowd.