BY EDWIN FRUIT
PITTSBURGH - Nearly 1,000 high school students marched and rallied here November 22 to protest the not guilty verdict acquitting John Vojtas, one of the policemen who had been on trial in the killing of Jonny Gammage in October 1995.
Members of the NAACP Youth Council and the "Mobilization of African Students for Justice" called the walkout, which began at 10 a.m. School officials decided they would not try to block students from attending the march.
Students filled the St. Benedict the Moor Church at Freedom Corner in the Hill District of Pittsburgh and were addressed by student leaders. Nicole Leary, a 16-year-old senior at Perry Traditional Academy, told the crowd, "We are going to walk downtown in a silent march and then we are going to have a rally at the City-County Building. We don't want to do anything stupid to bring the authorities down on us. We want to make our statement and show that young people can do so without being wild."
The students then marched downtown four by four and held a rally at the City-County Building. The march was marshaled and monitored by older members of the NAACP and other community organizations, although the students organized and ran the march and rally. Along the route protesters chanted "No Justice, No Peace" and carried signs such as "Arrest Brutality," "R.I.P." followed by the names of individuals killed by Pittsburgh police, and "Cashman Must Go," referring to the judge presiding over the case of march the accused policemen.
In other developments Mayor Tom Murphy has agreed to send a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno asking her to investigate the death of Gammage. According to the Pittsburgh- Post Gazette of November 23, local and national leaders of the NAACP want Reno to investigate whether Gammage's civil rights were violated when he was killed by police after a traffic stop in the suburb of Brentwood.
The Black Action Society of the University of Pittsburgh sponsored a protest against the verdict November 23, where some 40 people rallied.
A benefit concert will be held on December 5. A local band, Ploughman's Lunch, will perform. They recently recorded a song entitled "The Murder of Jonny Gammage." The National Record Mart, a record store in western Pennsylvania, has refused to carry this song and protests are being planned against the censorship.
Two other cops whose first case ended in a mistrial last month, will be retried in January. More actions are being planned to coincide with this trial.
Edwin Fruit is a member of International Association of
Machinists Local Lodge 1976.
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