Protesters fanned across opposite sides of Philadelphia on Saturday trailed by officers — the subject of scorn and criticism in cutting chants and speeches that have become ubiquitous during a month of national protests against police brutality.
“We take care of us,” read one of many protesters’ signs that bobbed above the heads of hundreds of people who crowded Center City on a humid afternoon. It called to abolish the Philadelphia Police Department.
Two protests that spanned the city and a range of messages started at City Hall but headed in opposite directions.
One demonstration advocated for the lives of people who identify as queer, with an emphasis on Black queerness.
The protest, held the day before the 51st anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, added to a rising national tide of activism that has called for further attention to disproportionate injustices present in a number of Black communities. Thousands of protesters have recently emphasized the often-violent deaths of Black transgender people that have recently included Tony McDade, Layleen Polanco, Nina Pop, and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells.
“Black queer lives matter!” shouted the crowd in Philadelphia, many of whom wore rainbow-print apparel in honor of queer pride, as they strode along Market Street.
For Najah Ross-Green, 25, the protest intertwined her identities as a bisexual Black woman.
”I feel that every day, my life is in threat as a Black woman and as a Black gay woman,” said Ross-Green, who was there with her twin sister, Najla.
“I can’t celebrate Pride without protesting the fact that people that look like me ... could be killed by police,” she said.
Ross-Green said she had signed petitions, contacted politicians, and attended numerous events over the last several weeks.
”I feel empowered,” she said, “just looking around and seeing that everybody is having had enough. Even in the midst of being able to celebrate, we are still coming together for a serious reason.”
Even better, her sister Najla said, the protesters at every rally she has attended seemed like a family.
“We can all come together for a common purpose,” she said, “because we all want to end the genocide of Black people.”
At Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia, a group of people in adult entertainment and sex work held what they called a “stripper’s strike,” in an effort to draw attention to racism and the need for safer working conditions.
On the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the veteran Philadelphia trombonist Jeff Bradshaw performed at his “Clarion Call for Justice,” a demonstration against police brutality.
Bradshaw implored the crowd to honor the lives of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Tony McDade — Black victims recently killed by police — and Ahmaud Arbery, shot in Georgia in February while jogging.
Close to the museum, organizers for the protest, “Care Not Cops,” denounced what they called insufficient access to affordable, public health care that has become more pronounced during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the coronavirus more deeply affects Black, Latino, and low-income communities that have higher numbers of people with preexisting physical and mental-health conditions, as well as those who have trouble gaining access to medical care or safe housing.
“Instead of responding with care, compassion and resources, the city criminalizes homelessness, mental illness, drug use, poverty, survival!” said the “Care Not Cops” website, which also identified the group as an “autonomous collective of health and other care professionals.”
The several dozen protesters wove their way to Hahnemann University Hospital, the now-defunct hospital that closed in September after extended financial woes. More than 2,500 people were laid off as a result of the closure, and medical students were left to scramble for institutions where they could resume classes and residencies.
“I see the way that these systems have in every way disproportionately supported wealthy, white, privileged patients,” said Alice, a third-year medical student at Jefferson University who wore scrubs, her white coat, and half-mask respirator, and declined to give her last name, for concern of facing repercussions for protesting. “They serve to hold up systems of institutional racism.”
She also criticized what she considered to be extravagant tactical apparel for police and thought the money spent on the equipment could instead fund reusable medical protection for health-care workers.
As she spoke, Philadelphia police officers dressed in black tactical gear showed up.
Staff photographers Elizabeth Robertson, Heather Khalifa, and Yong Kim contributed to this article.