Hundreds of protesters with Philly REAL Justice, Black Lives Matter and other groups took to Philadelphia’s streets for more than eight hours yesterday in what was an almost entirely peaceful demonstration.
Dubbed a “black resistance march,” the mass protest clogged streets as they moved from North Philadelphia, a stop at City Hall then to the perimeter of the convention arena, where the second day of the Democratic National Convention unfolded.
The march started in a predominantly black neighborhood in North Philadelphia and organizers asked white demonstrators to move to the back of the group to give the black marchers the most visibility.
“Sandra Bland. We honor you. Carry her name … Brandon Tate Brown. We honor you. Carry his name,” the group said, passing out signs bearing the names of those who they say have lost their lives to law enforcement.
Well into the evening, as onlookers took photos and dozens were stranded in cars as Broad Street ground to a halt to make way for the hordes of marchers, a familiar opposition rang out:
“Police brutality against unarmed black men and women and many people of color that happens every single day. Every single day there’s a new video out. Every single day we have the same reactions. Something needs to change,” said Philadelphian Noelle, who wouldn’t give her last name.
Protester Spencer Osley put it a slightly different way.
“My message to the Democrats is to help stop police brutality and to help make laws to stop racist police from beating up our children,”Osley said. He said he was marching because he was the victim of a police beating.
More than a hundred police vehicles followed close behind and several dozen police officers on bicycles were also riding along, but the demonstrators and authorities never violently clashed.
James Russell, 34, of Southwest Philadelphia, said he joined the demonstrators to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Yet he can’t throw his support around some of the anti-cop messages because, he said, it’s an over simplistic judgment.
“Of course a few cops overdo it. I’ve been pulled over a lot, and cops have asked me my whereabouts, what I’m doing, for no reason,” Russell said. “But I’m not giving middle fingers to the police, because one day I might need them. One day they might need me.”
Throughout the six-mile march, there were a few tense turns.
At one point, a few protesters burned American flags and were shouted down by bystanders in South Philly.
Then the big group intersected with a Bernie or Bust crowd, and a few scuffles ensued, though they were quickly settled.
Exhaustion set in by the time the group reached FDR Park, where the last bunches of protesters taunted Pennsylvania State Police wearing riot gear who were positioned behind a fence at Citizens Bank Park. A little away from that scene, some were strumming John Lennon covers and preparing for a candelit vigil.
Federal authorities said late Tuesday that four individuals were arrested and are being held after they jumped over a fence at a restricted area near the Wells Fargo Center. The names of the arrested have not been released, but officials said the four are expected to have an initial court date in Philadelphia’s federal courthouse on Wednesday.