A silent march protests the silence around who fatally shot 8-year-old Fanta Bility
“We want to make sure her story doesn’t die,” said Dyamond Gibbs, 23, who coordinated the march to demand justice for the girl killed by apparent police gunfire outside a Sharon Hill football game.
Nearly two months after Fanta Bility was killed by apparent police gunfire outside a high school football game in Sharon Hill, community members marched Sunday to demand justice for the 8-year-old’s death.
No charges have been filed, and none of the three officers said to have shot toward a crowd Aug. 27 outside Academy Park High School has been identified — drawing pushback from protesters who gathered in front of the Sharon Hill police station Sunday and said they wanted to hold officials accountable.
They also sought to remind the community of what had happened.
“We want to make sure her story doesn’t die,” said Dyamond Gibbs, 23, an Upper Darby resident and president of a social justice group called UDTJ — an acronym for “Understanding, Devotion, Take Action, Justice” — that helped coordinate the march.
Facing a crowd of about 50 people outside the station — many holding signs that read Black Lives Matter or Justice for Fanta — Gibbs recalled the national protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing last year. “When a tragic event like that happened in our own backyard,” she said, organizers wanted to “bring the same energy.”
She and several others, including the Delco Resists community organization, led the march to the high school. Police vehicles flanked the group, which took over half the roadway on residential streets and Chester Pike.
They marched silently — except for music coming out of a speaker wheeled by one protester, including “Glory” by Common and John Legend and “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. As they arrived at the high school, they stopped in front of the football field, where they stood in silence for eight minutes in memory of Fanta. A Black Lives Matter flag carried by one woman rippled in the wind.
Fanta’s family wasn’t present, but Gibbs said organizers got their support for the protest.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said last month that Fanta’s death occurred while officers were responding to gunfire that erupted as spectators were leaving the football game. He said three officers fired, and ballistics analysis showed with “near certainty” that they killed Fanta and wounded three others, including her older sister. A fifth person was also wounded, but Stollsteimer said it’s unclear by whom.
Stollsteimer called for a grand jury to investigate the case and possible criminal charges against the officers, who were placed on administrative leave. A spokesperson, Margie McAboy, said Friday that a grand jury was “in the process of being assembled.”
The Borough of Sharon Hill has retained lawyer Kelley Hodge to conduct an internal investigation and review the police department’s policies and procedures.
Several protesters said Sunday that officials hadn’t provided adequate information.
“If this happened in another community with different demographics ... frankly, an affluent white community, there would be an expectation of weekly press conferences on the progress” of the investigation, said Mario Cimino, a former council president of Morton Borough.
“That to me is the definition of systemic racism,” he said.
Ralph Kinchen said he participated in the march because he thought that the case had gotten “very little exposure.”
“I’m 72 years old. I’ve never seen a tragedy like this so close to being swept under the carpet,” said Kinchen, of Sharon Hill.
As he spoke, Sheila A. Carter interjected. “There’s still a lot of unknowns,” she said.
The president of the Darby Area NAACP and a former police officer in Darby Township, Carter said she didn’t believe that the shooting was a “racist incident,” but “a mistake.” She said she is waiting for the grand jury to reach a decision on charges.
“It’s going to take some time for us to heal our community,” she said.
Kinchen expressed frustration with the lack of a clear timeframe for the case. And he was dismayed that the 8-year-old’s killing hadn’t warranted more attention.
“The nation doesn’t even know about it,” he said. “After all we went through last summer.”