Up to 200 demonstrators blocked an intersection in Philadelphia’s Old City section near Mayor Jim Kenney’s residence on Sunday night to oppose the city’s plans to close down homeless camps off the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and in North Philadelphia.
“Help us, be there for us, because we really need it,” one protester said over a speaker system as the group filled the intersection at Third and Race Streets.
“Where are we gonna go?” a demonstrator asked. “You want us to commit suicide and die? That ain’t happening.”
After nearly three months and two postponed closures for the encampments, the Kenney administration says the Parkway camp of about 150 people on a 22nd Street ball field will be dismantled at 9 a.m. Wednesday. So will similar sites at the Rodin Museum, the Azalea Garden near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and outside the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s headquarters on Ridge Avenue.
Outreach workers offering shelter space and other forms of housing have been blocked by encampment leaders from entering the areas to provide help. They have been showing up anyway, staying on the perimeter.
As the two-hour demonstration unfolded peacefully Sunday in Old City, other people streamed by during the balmy evening — some adults with children on their shoulders, some heading to outside tables at restaurants. A small number of police kept watch, standing back from the gathering.
The demonstrators in the “Stop the Sweep” rally called for city residents to back them. One protester, noticing residents photographing the event from upstairs windows, said that the spectators should send money by Venmo to help those without housing.
It was not known whether Kenney was present at the time in his apartment building. His schedule for the weekend listed no public events in the city or elsewhere. His press office did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The rally was the second protest outside Kenney’s place since June; the last one called for city spending on police to be cut. Mayors’ residences have become common destinations for protest this summer. Demonstrators have gathered outside the homes of mayors in Chicago; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and in Los Angeles, San Jose and Oakland.
One woman at the Old City protest asked, “Why are they bothering us? If you’re not going through what we’re going through, stop bothering us.” Said another: “The whole campsite is one big family.”
At one point, a speaker urged each person who was listening to ask another supporter to join the encampment residents on Wednesday. “Let the city know they can’t erase us,” the speaker said. “Are you ready?”
Said another speaker: We’re not going anywhere, regardless of what happens on Wednesday.”
Staff writer Laura McCrystal contributed to this article.