Photo essay: Protests continue in Philadelphia while suburbs join the call for police reform

Protesters took over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway Saturday to hear speakers from the Philly Socialists, who along with demanding an end to police brutality and justice for George Floyd, called for fair housing, libraries, and healthcare for all. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Protesters gathered in Philadelphia to denounce the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police for the first time on Saturday, May 30.

Hundreds kneeled in Dilworth Park in the shadow of City Hall, holding that position for nearly nine minutes, the amount of time a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck.

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Protesters head for the Philadelphia art museum
Protesters head for the Philadelphia art museum on May 30, 2020, to protest the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
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Their numbers swelled as they marched to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where a diverse crowd of protesters chanted and spoke against racism and police brutality.

Hundreds rally on the steps of the Philadelphia art museum
Hundreds rally on the steps of the Philadelphia art museum on May 30, 2020, to protest the killing of George Floyd by Mineapolis police. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The day wore on and the number of protesters continued to grow. As they marched through the city in at least three separate groups, violence broke out. Bottles were thrown, police cars were set on fire, and a large group surrounded the statue of former Mayor and Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo at Thomas Paine Plaza, attempting to take it down.

Police cars burn in front of City Hall
Police cars burn in front of City Hall on May 30, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Protesters try to take down the statue of former mayor and police chief Frank Rizzo
Protesters try to take down the statue of former mayor and police chief Frank Rizzo in front of the Municipal Services Building on May 30, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
A Philadelphia firefighter puts out a dumpster fire
A Philadelphia firefighter puts out a dumpster fire at 16th and Sansom on May 30, 2020. Looters in Center City used dumpsters to block streets, slowing emergency respone. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

While police defended a perimeter around City Hall, looters tore through Center City businesses, smashing windows and setting fires.

A looter emerges from the shattered window of a North Face store
A looter emerges from the shattered window of a North Face store on Walnut Street in Philadelphia, May 30, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Volunteers descended on Center City Sunday morning, May 31, to clean-up the aftermath. Hundreds gathered at the Octavius Catto statue at City Hall that afternoon to denounce the violence from the day before and decry the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all Black people who have been killed by police.

Melissa Robbins
Organizer Melissa Robbins remembers Octavius Catto, a Black educator, who was killed trying to bite in 1871. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A peaceful but heated march of about 70 people that began on Race Street near Philadelphia police headquarters Sunday afternoon was quickly squashed.

Protesters peacefully call for systemic change in the U.S.
Protesters peacefully called for systemic change in the U.S. after a night of riots throughout the country. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

WHYY’s Avi Wolfman-Arent was tackled and arrested along with protesters. A 6 p.m. curfew was put in place.

Police arrest a protester in front of Independence Mall
Police arrest a protester in front of Independence Mall on Sunday afternoon. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

On Monday, June 1, protesters raised their fists at police headquarters at North 8th and Race streets, asking police to take a knee in solidarity.

Pennsylvaqnia State Police
Pennsylvania State Police, one of them spattered with paint, keep protesters away from a burning car and vandalized police cars on Vine Street near Broad, May 30, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

They marched to City Hall and then north to I-676, where some protesters marched on to the highway and blocked traffic. They were tear-gassed, and dozens were arrested.

Police arrest dozens of protesters after they blocked traffic on the Vine Street Expressway
Police arrest dozens of protesters after they blocked traffic on the Vine Street Expressway on June 1, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

More protesters were arrested as a 6 p.m. curfew fell.

Protesters help each other after being tear-gassed
Protesters help each other after being tear-gassed on the Ben Franklin Parkway, June 1, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The National Guard arrived in Philadelphia and peaceful marches continued on Tuesday, June, 2. Protesters knelt at the barricades at City Hall. Police and news helicopters circled the city.

Protesters take a knee
Protesters took a knee in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall during protests against systemic racial injustice in the U.S. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Early Wednesday morning, the controversial statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo was removed from Thomas Paine plaza. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, surrounded by National Guard members and tanks, told the press it was a first step.

Where the mural of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo once stood
The statue of former Philadelphia mayor and chief of police Frank Rizzo was removed from the city’s Municipal Services Building early Wednesday morning amid civic unrest around the killings of unarmed black men in the U.S. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Temple University students organized a peaceful march down North Broad Street to the Philadelphia Art Museum. On a sweltering day under the threat of dangerous storms, protesters laid down in the street for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

Protesters lie down on the North section of Broad Street
Protesters lie down on the North section of Broad Street, while organizers spoke the last words of George Floyd. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Protesters lie down on the North section of Broad Street
Protesters lie down on the North section of Broad Street, while organizers spoke the last words of George Floyd. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Fishtown residents confronted police at the city’s 26th District, demanding its Captain William Fisher resign after white men with baseball bats and other weapons — who claimed they were defending the neighborhood — were seen threatening peaceful protesters on Monday. Angry residents who felt their complaints about vigilantes were dismissed faced off with police.

Thursday, June 4, marches again took the streets. Many first-time protesters told WHYY reporters that they would continue to protest until reforms were made.

Protesters march by a tree decorated in honor of Breonna Taylor
Protesters march by a tree decorated in honor of Breonna Taylor, who would have been 27 on Thursday, in Center City Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

On what would have been the 27th birthday of Breonna Taylor, protesters remembered her, kneeling in the rain and marching all the way from the Philadelphia Art Museum to Washington Avenue in South Philly on Friday, June 5.

Protesters take over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
On the 7th straight day of protests in Philadelphia, demonstrators called for an end to police brutality on the steps of the Art Museum. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Protesters take over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Protesters took over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway Saturday to hear speakers from the Philly Socialists, who along with demanding an end to police brutality and justice for George Floyd, called for fair housing, libraries, and healthcare for all. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A mass demonstration of thousands took place Saturday, June 6, at noon, beginning on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. Members of Reclaim Philly and Philly Socialists called for the defunding of police, as well as fair housing, health care, child care and fair education funding. Protesters continued to call for racial justice, marching and dancing throughout Center City.

Members of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
Members of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity organized a March from the Octavius Catto statute at City Hall to the African American History Museum in Philadelphia calling for equality and justice. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

At 3 p.m., members of Black fraternities and sororities, along with Mayor Kenney, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and former Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, marched from the Octavius Catto statue to The African American Museum in Philadelphia. Faith leaders, City Councilmember-At-Large Kathy Gilmore Richardson and Jenkins called for sweeping social reform.

Protesters in scrubs and lab coats
Protesters in scrubs and lab coats, some former employees at Hahnemann Hospital, mark the first anniversary of the hospital’s closing with a rally calling for equal access to healthcare on June 7, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The city was quiet on Sunday morning, June 7, when more than 100 medical professionals gathered in front of the shuttered Hahnemann University Hospital to protest unequal access to health care.

Protesters march from Eastern State Penitentiary
Protesters march from Eastern State Penitentiary to Philadelphia police headquarters during a protest against prisons on June 7, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Later in the day, a larger group gathered at Eastern State Penitentiary to demand the release from prison of people who are vulnerable to COVID-19. The group marched to state offices at North 8th and Arch streets, where it read letters from currently incarcerated people. The march continued to City Hall, where the group dispersed peacefully, six hours after it had begun. No curfew was in place.

Protesters kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds
Protesters kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in remembrance of George Floyd during a Black Lives Matter rally at Linconia Park in Bensalem, Pa. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

As Philadelphia entered its second week of protests, West Philadelphians marched from Cedar Park at South 50th Street and Baltimore Avenue to police headquarters at North 7th and Race streets. Face-to-face with police, protesters yelled, “Quit your job!”

Protest organizer Faith Williams
Protest organizer Faith Williams raises a fist in front of Philadelphia police headquarters after marching from Cedar Park in West Philly on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. The group called for the defunding of the police department. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Rashaun Williams
Rashaun Williams calls for more resources for communities over more funding for police at a protest march, paused at 38th and Market Streets, on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Labor unions stood at LOVE Park, demanding better personal protective equipment and hazard pay for the city’s sanitation workers.

End Racism Now mural in Fishtown
An “End Racism” mural was painted in front of the 24th District police station in Fishtown after the department drew criticism for failing to keep armed vigilantes from terrorizing protesters and residents in the district. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

In response to the armed white men vigilante incident in Fishtown, community members painted “End Racism Now” in front of the 26th police district.

East Passyunk families marched in South Philadelphia
East Passyunk families marched in South Philadelphia Friday, June 12, 2020, demanding justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Throughout the week, the Black Lives Matter movement reached suburban communities. Events in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and Pennsauken, New Jersey, drew hundreds of marchers.

Hundreds arrive at Pennsauken Community Rec Center
Hundreds arrive at Pennsauken Community Rec Center in Pennsauken, N.J., for a march and vigil to remember George Floyd and others who died at the hands of police. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
Best friends Kyla Thomas and Kyla Butler
Best friends Kyla Thomas and Kyla Butler hold electric candles as they kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds at a vigil in Pennsauken, N.J. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

In Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, protesters carried signs at the busy intersection of Garrett Road and Lansdowne Avenue, where widespread support was shown on the roads with constant honking.

Angela Kosha and Jada Ward
Angela Kosha (left) and Jada Ward (right), both 18 and recent graduates of Upper Darby High School, joined a roadside protest in their neighborhood on June 10, 2020. Both are artists and are determined to continue protesting until they see real change. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

In Philadelphia, the Workers Revolutionary Collective helped to organize a protest by members of the city’s homeless population.

Encampment on Ben Franklin Parkway
Dozens of tents popped up on the Ben Franklin Parkway as part of a protest against a law that prohibits camping on public property. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

By June 11, about 40 tents had popped up on the Ben Franklin Parkway at 22nd Street. Residents of the encampment are demanding permanent housing and the repeal of a city law that bans camping on public property.

Tanya Lilly
Tanya Lilly has been homeless since October. "I'm so tired," she said. "This is not the way I want to live, but it's better than sleeping on the cement." (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia began its third week of protests on Saturday, June 13, with at least nine separate events demanding an end to racial injustice.

Mike Africa Jr. raises a fist with other protesters
Mike Africa Jr. (center) raises a fist with other protesters at the site of the MOVE bombing, on June 13, 2020, part of ongoing demonstrations demanding justice for Black lives lost to police. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

In South Philadelphia, families marched with signs they then zip-tied to the fence of Columbus Square Park. The Africa family brought out large crowds to Osage Avenue, demanding more than an apology for the 1985 bombing of their West Philly block. Protesters marching to Malcolm X Park faced off with police in riot helmets.

Members of an Aztec dance troupe
Members of an Aztec dance troupe performed at a rally Saturday, June 13, 2020, protesting racial injustice. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The party for Socialism and Liberation marched from the new police headquarters building and through Old City via Independence Hall, demanding the city defund the police and fund city programs instead. Aztec dancers performed on Broad Street before the massive group march.

A crowd watches as the statue of Christopher Columbus in Marconi Plaza disappears behind plywood
A crowd watches as the statue of Christopher Columbus in Marconi Plaza disappears behind plywood. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

While monuments associated with racism were being vandalized and removed in cities across the U.S., a small band of men, some armed with bats and guns, in South Philadelphia began guarding the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza.

Tyler Cousins
Tyler Cousins (left) was one of a group of people who came to Marconi Plaza to challenge those who are defending the statue of Christopher Columbus. He and others were punched and chased from the park by a group of men. Police arrested one man for assault. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Over the next several days, it clashed, sometimes violently, with small groups of protesters that saw the statue as a symbol of genocide.

Workers box up the statue of Christopher Columbus
Workers box up the statue of Christopher Columbus at Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Police were criticized for their handling of the situation, and on June 16, at the order of the mayor, city workers built a massive plywood box around the 144-year-old statue. Public hearings will be held to determine what should be done with it.

Activists with the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities
Activists with the Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities and other groups held a "Vigil for People Killed by Kenney’s Budget'" at City Hall on June 16, 2020, demanding the city defund the police and fund affordable, accessible and integrated housing. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

As the statue was being boxed up, protesters held a vigil for those “killed by Mayor Kenney’s budget,” highlighting the need for funding for fair housing in the city.

Samantha Rise
Samantha Rise, program director of Girls Rock Philly, on June 16, 2020. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

On the same day, arts advocates held a march from the Art Museum steps to City Hall demanding that funding for arts programs in the city be restored and bolstered by diverting an increase in the police budget.

Protesters lay in the intersection of 15th and JFK
Protesters lay in the intersection of 15th and JFK in Philadelphia for 8 minutes and 46 seconds during a Juneteenth protest march on Friday, June 19, 2020. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

On Friday, June 19, Juneteenth, protesters blocked traffic at the intersection of North 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard. A Black-only Juneteenth celebration took place at Malcolm X Park, and protesters took to the surrounding streets chanting, “I love being Black!”

Chris Bowman
Chris Bowman holds up a fist demanding justice for Black people in the U.S. during a Juneteenth march in Philadelphia on Friday, June 19, 2020. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A massive demonstration, the “Say Her Name” march, brought protesters back to the park on June 20. The group heard from speakers who demanded justice for Breonna Taylor, who died at the hands of police, and acceptance and love for the Black trans community, in light of the murder Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells.

Say Her Name march
"My trans sisters are just my sisters," Yahné Ndgo said, calling on the Black community to extend equal love to trans people.at the Say Her Name March in West Philadelphia on Saturday, June 20, 2020. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Say Her Name march
Black women took the lead at the Say Her Name march in West Philadelphia Saturday, June 20, 2020. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Calls seeking justice for all Black lives continued Sunday, when a joint Black Lives Matter and Philly Pride march brought trans community members to the mic. The Urban League of Philadelphia called for racial economic justice at a Father’s Day Rally at Independence Mall.

Queer March for Black Lives
Eteria Armour dances with a rainbow flag at the Queer March for Black Lives in Philadelphia on June 21, 2020. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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