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Breonna Taylor protesters in Center City occupy I-95, mix it up with motorists, then head through South Philly

About 100 marchers first forced a portion of I-95 to shut down, before marching throughout South Philly.

A protester stops traffic on the Delaware Ave. exit  on  I-95 south on Sept. 24, 2020 to protest the Breonna Taylor grand jury ruling
A protester stops traffic on the Delaware Ave. exit on I-95 south on Sept. 24, 2020 to protest the Breonna Taylor grand jury rulingRead moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

For a second night, this time taking their protest onto I-95, Philadelphia demonstrators set out across the city Thursday in continued outrage over the decision by a grand jury in Kentucky not to indict police officers in the death of Breonna Taylor.

About 100 marchers rallied on Independence Mall about 7 p.m. and then made their way through Old City and onto the highway shortly before 8.

Video showed them in standoffs with motorists who had been forced to a halt.

The highway was reopened just before 8:30 as the marchers headed off at the Columbus Boulevard exit and onto the streets of South Philadelphia, where they urged outdoor diners to join them. They got a standing ovation from some.

On South Street, protesters screamed into open windows. Some residents raised their fists in solidarity and others seemed to ignore the crowd making its way through their neighborhood.

“It was just yesterday when we saw that Black lives don’t matter,” one of the protest organizers, who gave her name only as Kizzy, said at the initial rally outside Independence Hall. “The system has failed us and has failed Breonna Taylor, because it’s a system not designed for us.

“We are done talking, we are done pleading, we are done asking,” she added. "Now is the time to tear it down.”

By 9 p.m. the crowd had made its way to the South Street Bridge, where a contingent of bicycle police blocked access in an apparent attempt to prevent protesters from walking onto I-76. For a few minutes protesters yelled at the officers, some urging “Quit your jobs,” to blank stares. Then the group continued to Lombard Street, headed back toward Center City.

In Rittenhouse Square, they again got support from those dining outdoors, some of whom chanted “Black Lives Matter” along with them.

The encounter at the South Street Bridge was one of the more tense moments of the night. Another was when an officer collided with a protester at Sixth Street and South. Overall, police were largely hands-off.

Earlier Thursday, just across the city’s western border, protesters in Upper Darby staged a “die-in” at the 69th Street Transportation Center. The demonstration, organized by local civil-rights group Understanding, Devotion, Take Action, Justice, called for a “nationwide strike and shutdown” in reaction to the grand jury’s ruling.

Kyle McIntyre, one of the organizers, said the group doesn’t condone or want violence. They "just want justice.

“Our goal is to get justice for Breonna Taylor. And we said if we didn’t get it, we would shut it down, and this is us shutting it down,” McIntyre said.

The intersection of 69th and Market Streets was shut down during the protest. Just after 5:30 p.m. about a dozen people holding signs and banners occupied the southwest corner.

Some passersby honked their horns and raised fists in support. Others shouted at the group, questioning their motives.

In March, Louisville officers fatally shot Taylor, an emergency medical worker, multiple times after entering her apartment with a warrant connected to a suspect who did not live in the home.

» READ MORE: In Breonna Taylor case, limits of law overcome calls for justice

Former Detective Brett Hankinson was charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for shooting into a home next to Taylor’s. Two other officers involved in the shooting — Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove — were not indicted.

Protests erupted almost immediately throughout the country, including in Philadelphia, where hundreds of people marched through Center City on Wednesday, bemoaning the decision by the grand jury and demanding justice.

Thursday’s action ended at City Hall about three hours after it began, with speakers asking everyone assembled to come back at noon Friday.

Organizer Mikal Woods said Thursday’s protest was unaffiliated with any organizations: “We’re citizens. We’re angry and mad, and we’re taking it to the streets in the most peaceful way possible.”

» READ MORE: Protesters marched through Philadelphia Wednesday, in the wake of the grand jury ruling in Breonna Taylor’s death

He said that he’d been pleased with the protest, and that it had been important for the group to pass through neighborhoods near Center City that haven’t been the site of many protest marches.

“There’s a lot of prejudice in these neighborhoods, and we wanted to let them know we’re here, unapologetic, and they’re going to hear us,” Woods said.

Staff writer Oona Goodin-Smith contributed to this article.