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Pittsburgh Celebrates Juneteenth, Commemorates The Life Of Antwon Rose

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Today, people in Pittsburgh are not only celebrating Juneteenth, they are also commemorating the life of Antwon Rose. Two years ago today, a white police officer shot the black 17-year-old as he was running away. Rose did not have a gun. From member station WESA, Sarah Boden reports from an event honoring the teen's life.

SARAH BODEN, BYLINE: In front of a billboard of Rose's smiling face, members of his family release purple and white balloons while a couple hundred people watch and helicopters circle overhead. Andrea McNeill says it was important for her to attend today's event because it's Juneteenth.

ANDREA MCNEILL: But there's still a whole lot of injustice going on in this world with police brutality.

BODEN: Antwon Rose is remembered as loving, smart and sensitive. He was shot three times while running from a police officer who was acquitted of criminal charges. In Pittsburgh, Rose's killing is held as an example of how black Americans are treated differently by law enforcement. So while Juneteenth is a celebration of emancipation, McNeil says this inequality is an outgrowth of slavery.

MCNEILL: I like to say you're free-ish. You're free-ish. That's what Juneteenth means to me right now.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: No justice.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: No racist...

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Police.

MCNEILL: Trandra Wade attended today's march with her brother and 8-year-old son, Terrance. She says Rose's death hit home.

TRANDRA WADE: Most mothers teach their kids look both ways before you cross the street or don't jump in the deep if you don't know how to swim. There is nothing I could teach my son that'll keep him alive because he's black.

MCNEILL: Antwon Rose's mother, Michelle Kenney, talked to the crowd about her lobbying efforts for police reform. She discussed her recent trip to Washington, D.C., where she met with Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.

MICHELLE KENNEY: Who's a Republican, y'all. But guess what? He working on the same thing I'm working on, so I don't got no problem with taking a seat at that table 'cause I sure told him a few things, too.

BODEN: For change to happen, Kenney says black people and their allies are going to have to work with their enemies. For NPR News, I'm Sarah Boden in Pittsburgh. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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