One week after a small, but controversial protest outside a veteran Philadelphia police officer’s home, the city’s largest police union responded Thursday night with a rally of its own.
Before a friendly crowd including hundreds of former and active officers, John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, railed against local members of Black Lives Matter who traveled to Officer Ryan Pownall’s Northeast Philadelphia home last week to protest his slaying of a suspect.
“When you go to work each day, you shouldn’t have to worry that a pack of rabid animals will suddenly show up at your home and openly threaten your family,” said McNesby inside FOP headquarters. “These are not activists, they are racist hate groups determined to instigate violence.”
There was no sign of Black Lives Matter activists inside or outside Thursday’s “Back the Blue” event, although the group had promised further actions earlier this week.
Reached after the rally, activist Asa Khalif called his group “freedom fighters exercising their First Amendment right.”
“We will not let words stop us. The only words we’re using is justice for David Jones, and we will not be sidetracked by the bullying tactics of the FOP,” said Khalif, adding that members of his group may return to Pownall’s home in the city’s Bustleton section.
Last Thursday, Khalif and others went to Pownall’s neighborhood to denounce the June shooting death of David Jones. They called Pownall a murderer and demanded justice for Jones, who had been riding his dirt bike in North Philadelphia when the officer decided to get out of his cruiser and stop him.
Pownall shot Jones, 30, in the back three times after he ditched the bike and fled.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office is investigating the case.
Policy on identifying cops in shootings at issue
Thursday night’s rally also came on the heels of a lawsuit filed by the FOP in Common Pleas Court seeking to block the Philadelphia department’s policy of releasing the names of officers who shoot people within 72 hours after the incident.
A hearing on the matter is set for the end of September.
In the meantime, lawmakers in Harrisburg are pushing to extend the wait time to release officers’ names to 30 days.
“We need to make sure our law enforcement officers — when they’re involved in protecting our community and they have to use force — they don’t have their names disclosed to the public,” said Republican state Rep. Martina White who introduced the measure, which Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto.
“We need to make sure their names are protected just like everybody else’s,” said White. Although it is worth noting that when civilians shoot people, their names become public record when they are charged.
Reformers say in Philadelphia, no officer has ever been criminally charged for an on-duty shooting, even though there have been hundreds over the years, and they find the circumstances of some, like Jones’, troubling.