Protesters turned out Wednesday night in Philadelphia, responding to the shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
About 100 protesters were in attendance for the demonstration organized by Refuse Fascism Philly, with the streets surrounding City Hall being blocked off by a heavy police presence.
“Refuse Fascism is an organization with one goal: to drive out the fascist Trump/Pence regime,” said one of the organizers of the event, Mark Tinkleman.
Several speakers at the Dilworth Plaza gathering made reference to this week’s Republican National Convention, and drew parallels between the shooting of Blake by police and the Trump presidency.
“This is happening in the context of a grotesque carnival of 21st century American fascism,” said another Refuse Fascism organizer Sam Goldman.
On Sunday afternoon, Blake was shot in the back seven times by police, who were responding to a domestic incident call. Blake’s family attorney, Benjamin Crump, said he was “breaking up a fight between two women.” Blake was moving away from the officers and opening the door to his car when officers grabbed him and shot him multiple times. He is now hospitalized and reported to be paralyzed at the waist.
The incident immediately sparked protests across the country that have continued nightly. In Kenosha, businesses were vandalized and dozens of cars set on fire. On Tuesday, the third night of protests, a shooter opened fire on some protesters, killing two and injuring one. A 17-year-old from a nearby town in Illinois has been arrested and charged in the shooting.
The protests come three months after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, which culminated in daily protests in cities — including Philadelphia for a month or more.
At the Dilworth Plaza protest, Lindo Yes recited his poem “I Don’t Want to Wake Up a Hashtag,” about his fears of police brutality against Black men becoming normalized. During his time on the megaphone he called out for answers regarding the death of Allen Mikell, recently discovered hanged in a playground in South Philadelphia.
“I’m tired of seeing my life lost on the news and put in cycles of tragedy,” he said.
Philadelphia resident Shamara Lee was another attendee of the demonstration.
“I was tired of crying at home,” Lee said. “I had to do something.”
Refuse Fascism promised to organize 60 days of protests, every day from Sept. 5 to Election Day in November, to mobilize voters against Trump. Organizers say they are inspired by the massive, ongoing protests in Belarus and Lebanon, seeking to overturn governments in those countries.
“This is not big enough,” said Tinkleman, looking out over about 80 people gathered for the protest.
Olivia Jones spoke at the rally, encouraging people to engage in direct street action. “You can’t vote your way to a solution,” she said.
“With the two main choices at hand, neither is going to end the extreme oppression and corporate ties to politics.” Olivia Jones says voting alone will not solve this. pic.twitter.com/ike22qocBx
— Peter Crimmins (@petercrimmins) August 26, 2020
Jones joined the protesters as they marched down South Broad Street, to Walnut Street, and over to Rittenhouse Square. She had her two kids in tow, ages 8 and 9. Since protests erupted after the death of George Floyd in May, she has brought her kids to street protests to engage them in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Jones wants to see Trump removed from the presidency, but that alone will not satisfy her. She is not entirely happy with Joe Biden as the Democratic alternative.
“With the two main choices at hand, neither is going to end the extreme oppression and corporate ties to politics,” she said.
The march, with a heavy police escort, was peaceful. It passed sidewalk diners along Walnut Street without incident. Once they entered Rittenhouse Square, populated with small groups of people enjoying the mild evening weather, the protest broke into networking groups to plan the next two months.
WHYY’s Emma Lee contributed reporting.
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