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.
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.
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.
While police defended a perimeter around City Hall, looters tore through Center City businesses, smashing windows and setting fires.
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.
A peaceful but heated march of about 70 people that began on Race Street near Philadelphia police headquarters Sunday afternoon was quickly squashed.
WHYY’s Avi Wolfman-Arent was tackled and arrested along with protesters. A 6 p.m. curfew was put in place.
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.
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.
More protesters were arrested as a 6 p.m. curfew fell.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
Labor unions stood at LOVE Park, demanding better personal protective equipment and hazard pay for the city’s sanitation workers.
In response to the armed white men vigilante incident in Fishtown, community members painted “End Racism Now” in front of the 26th police district.
Throughout the week, the Black Lives Matter movement reached suburban communities. Events in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and Pennsauken, New Jersey, drew hundreds of marchers.
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.
In Philadelphia, the Workers Revolutionary Collective helped to organize a protest by members of the city’s homeless population.
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.
Philadelphia began its third week of protests on Saturday, June 13, with at least nine separate events demanding an end to racial injustice.
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.
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.
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.
Over the next several days, it clashed, sometimes violently, with small groups of protesters that saw the statue as a symbol of genocide.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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