South Philly families march for police-free public schools in kid-friendly Passyunk protest

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

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

Philadelphians persisted for the 14th day of protest against police violence and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

About 300 people gathered for a Black Lives Matter protest in East Passyunk Friday afternoon, many with young children in tow.

For many parents, the neighborhood march was the first time they felt comfortable participating in a movement they wanted to be a part of.

“As a newer mom, I wasn’t sure how to participate in a way that I could still be a safe and happy mom,” said Megan Bucknum, of Pennsport, holding her 17-month old son. “I was really glad to hear about this.”

Speaker Saudia Durrant, an organizer with the Philly Student Union, talked to the crowd about reallocating funding for school police into underinvested communities. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Organized by Passyunk Square neighbors and the Philadelphia Student Union, protesters demanded changes in policies that put police inside public schools as security.

“We call on the Philadelphia school district to commit to police-free schools,” said co-organizer Adalaide Holton, reading the Student Union petition through a megaphone. “For the Office of School Safety to remove police and replace with community members training in de-escalation, restorative justice, and other skills that support healthy schools and communities.”

The hundreds of marchers were predominately white, by a wide margin. Jennifer Joseph, who brought her young daughter, was one of the few African Americans at the event. She said this was the first time she has taken to the street to protest the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

“This is amazing. I went to Ferguson, and it wasn’t the same,” she said, referring to the 2014 protests in Missouri after the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer. “The vibe in Philadelphia then — it wasn’t the same. Frankly, I didn’t see this many white people. I mean, I’m usually in the minority but, in a march like this, it’s really cool.”

Jennifer Joseph and her daughter, Charlie, 3 (left) and Bonnie Magwaza and her children Khaya, 4, and Jabu, 6, joined other families at South Philadelphia’s Columbus Square park to protest racial injustice. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Joseph said she is talking to her 3-year-old daughter Charlie about the protests about George Floyd, but without mentioning his death.

“She’s a pretty smart kid. She’s learning the importance of speaking up for yourself,” said Joseph. “At this age there isn’t more I can tell her. I can tell her things but it would be terrifying. The importance of speaking up for yourself is the main thing right now.”

Families gathered at the Singing Fountain on East Passyunk Avenue Friday afternoon in protest of police brutality. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
East Passyunk families marched in South Philadelphia Friday demanding justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Parents are finding ways to carefully talk to their kids about social unrest without getting into the gruesome details of police brutality. Two weeks ago, Nicole Klein was driving with her two kids, 5 and 3, when their car got stuck in the middle of a protest march along the Ben Franklin Parkway. The protest ultimately resulted in police using tear gas on protestors on the 676 highway. 

“We were on the Parkway with protestors coming and we were in the car. Our car was surrounded,” said Klein. The excitement piqued the interest of her older daughter, Elise.

“She was asking, ‘What do their signs say? What are they doing? What’s a protest?’” said Klein. “We had a very honest conversation about it.”

Temple University protest

On the other side of the city, Temple University students gathered on the campus early Friday afternoon to protest the university’s response to students’ racist social media posts.

The rally drew about 50 students, and came after at least one prospective student and one current student were called out for racist, homophobic and otherwise insensitive social media postings.

Viral graffiti 

The city’s going into its third straight weekend of civil action, but something that happened during the first weekend has only now gone viral.

A statue of Matthias Baldwin outside of City Hall was defaced with the words “colonizer” and “murderer” the weekend of May 30. The graffiti was quickly removed, but images of the spray painted statue went viral on Twitter Thursday. That day, the National Review published two pieces about the incident.

Later that evening, Fox News included a call-out about the graffiti in a breaking news segment.

“We can confirm that the statue of Matthias Baldwin, along with other statues in the area of Philadelphia’s City Hall, was tagged with paint and graffiti at some point during the first days of protests that took place in Philadelphia,” a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney’s office told the Inquirer. “There has been no subsequent vandalism of the Baldwin statue in recent days. So, while the Baldwin statue was in fact defaced, it did not take place yesterday as the tweet and accompanying image claim.”

Baldwin was a prominent abolitionist who advocated for voters rights for Black people and helped open a school for Black children.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal