For the young black men at today's Pittsburgh rally to support Ferguson, Mo, the death of Michael Brown is a terrifying reality. Brown was a high school graduate shot and killed on Aug. 9 by a police officer.
"As a black man who is the same age as Michael Brown, it worries me that I basically have to feel unsafe whenever I'm around a police officer," said Malcolm Williams, a CAPA High School graduate attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
"I could easily be the next Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin," said Kasem Kydd, a Jamaica, Queens native also referring to another young black man who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer.
At the rally at the Downtown Federal Building today, Pittsburghers stood in solidarity with Brown's family and other victims of police brutality. The rally was spurred by last night's announcement by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch that a grand jury would not indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown four times.
"How could they possibly not find some evidence of guilt on any of those charges," said Pete Shell of the Thomas Merton Antiwar Committee. "This is just another sign that there is a war on people of color."
"They criminalize every Black person who is shot by a cop," said Bekezela Mguni. "They try to justify our death."
Pittsburgh has had it's own share of incidents involving police brutality. One of the most recent involved Leon Ford, a teenager who was paralyzed after being shot by police who pulled him over for driving through a stop sign.
In addition to calling for justice for Brown and the indictment, arrest and prosecution of Wilson, the officer who shot him, the protesters today also called for justice at the local level. The organizers also want to see the reinstatement of a federal consent decree overseeing Pittsburgh police
They are demanding the officer who shot Ford be assigned to desk duty and for the local district attorney to prosecute officers for misconduct. In September, a jury found Ford not guilty of two felony counts of aggravated assault and the organizers of today's event are asking that remaining charges of reckless endangerment and resisting arrest be dropped.
"We're going to be gathering people to strategically figure our what our moves will be," says Julia Johnson, one of the event's organizer. "We're considering direct action, civil disobedience, voter registration drives, and making our people more sustainable."
Another rally will take place this evening at 7:00 p.m. at Forbes Ave. and Bigelow Blvd. in Oakland.