Hundreds of demonstrators peacefully moved through the streets of Philadelphia during a 15th consecutive day of protest over the police killing of George Floyd, pressing what has become an extraordinary demand for government accountability and recognition that Black Lives Matter.
In the city and in smaller communities Saturday, marchers of all colors spoke loudly against police brutality and racism, and called for a major restructuring of public-spending priorities, away from enforcement and toward programs and services that improve people’s lives.
- White supremacists and other extremist groups are using protests and a pandemic to amplify their message
- Amid pain and powerful protests, Philadelphia still found a way to be Philly. Here are 10 of those moments.
- Apologies and promises are not enough this time. New leadership is needed for the police and other institutions.
“Walk for me! My legs is old,” Aliya Shoatz, 66, shouted from her porch as demonstrators moved past in West Philadelphia. She called the protests “beautiful.”
City officials planned no nighttime curfew, nor a general shutdown of all Center City traffic. Temporary, rolling street closures occurred as demonstrations traveled.
Tensions did rise in South Philadelphia when defenders of explorer Christopher Columbus — including two people carrying rifles, and others with baseball bats — gathered at the base of his statue, saying they were protecting the marble image from “rioters.”
Back and forth it went: A GrubHub driver taunted the crowd. They responded by chanting, “Trump 2020!” She called Columbus a rapist.
One of the larger demonstrations filled three blocks on North Broad Street near Callowhill, where protesters called on Philadelphia officials to defund the city Police Department.
The group gathered in front of the former Inquirer building, expected to become the future police headquarters, saying they want millions of dollars slashed from the police budget. Mayor Jim Kenney had proposed a $19 million increase in the coming fiscal year, while cutting other city departments due to COVID-19, but dropped those plans last week.
“Put that in housing, put that in education,” said demonstrator Eric Jenkins of the Socialist Alternative. “Put that in restorative justice.”
Protesters chanted “No justice, no peace,” as they moved south toward City Hall, accompanied by dozens of officers on bicycles and in unmarked cars, and met by more than 80 police who formed a line outside the Municipal Services Building.
Some protesters carried photos of African Americans who have been killed by police.
Elsewhere, hundreds gathered at the site of the 1985 MOVE bombing near 62nd Street and Osage Avenue, where they also demanded that police be defunded. Eleven people died, including five children, when police dropped a bomb from a helicopter onto a rooftop bunker 35 years ago. Sixty-one homes burned down.
Protesters read aloud a play-by-play of police actions against MOVE, the group that combines back-to-nature and revolutionary black-liberation philosophies.
"The system is broken from end to end,” Mike Africa Jr. told the crowd. “I know people think there is a way to work through this system. I'm here to say as a black man, as a MOVE member ... if you can't get justice after rebelling for 400 years, you ain't going to get justice from these people."
Robert Ford, 74, and his son Roger, 44, stood outside their home on Osage Avenue. The son, who was 9 when the bomb exploded, said he has lived with trauma for decades.
“This is necessary,” he said of the protests. “Anyone who lives in this melting pot of a country and finds these actions appalling needs to stand up and speak out.”
The prophet Isaiah said, “A little child shall lead them,” and so it was on Saturday in Lower Merion Township, where two 7-year-old boys who just finished first grade organized a march to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
The group marched from Penn Wynne Library to Penn Wynne Elementary School, then knelt on the lawn for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time that a Minneapolis police officer had knelt on Floyd’s neck.
Harper Davis, who organized the march with his classmate Jackson Ziemba, said, “It’s not fair that police killed George Floyd because his skin was brown.”
In Philadelphia’s Queen Village neighborhood, about 200 children, parents, and teachers held a “Children’s March for Justice,” moving along South Street as they chanted, “Black Lives Matter.”
They held signs saying, “Be friends with everyone,” and, “Celebrate our differences,” concluding the march at Jefferson Square Park, where organizers read Langston Hughes’ poem “I Dream a World,” which includes the lines:
A world I dream where black or white
Whatever race you be
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free
Natalie St. Louis, principal at the George W. Nebinger School, said the goal was to empower children to make themselves heard.
“This was a way,” she said, “for them to literally put action to words.”