Protests ignited by the police killing of George Floyd continued across the Philadelphia region for a ninth straight day on Sunday, all of them peaceful and smaller than during previous days of contention and violence.
The city ended its nightly curfew for the first time in eight days. Hundreds gathered in Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia, dancing as musicians sang, “We are our liberation.” And the controversial, three-story mural of former Mayor Frank Rizzo disappeared from South Philadelphia, covered by a fresh coat of paint.
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“I hope that people who were offended by it find some peace,” said Larry Fein, 52, who was shopping there.
Gorgeous, sunny skies and comfortable weather presided over a lower-key set of demonstrations on Sunday, the day after thousands in Philadelphia joined a massive, peaceful protest to demand an end to racism and to declare that Black Lives Matter.
That demonstration marked the largest single protest in the city since Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police on May 25, and followed a week of confrontation, looting, and burning that evoked late-1960s America. Saturday demonstrations in the city and around the region were part of a nationwide outpouring against police brutality, capping a week that started in chaos but ended with peaceful expressions.
On Sunday in Center City, hundreds on skateboards set out from LOVE Park, rumbling over the asphalt to join a “Free People Strike” rally outside Eastern State Penitentiary, today a historic attraction in Fairmount.
People clapped and shouted, chanting, “Ain’t no power like the power of the people cause the power of the people don’t stop.”
“The system is controlled by pressure, and if you don’t keep the pressure on them, they’re not going to change,” said Mike Africa Jr. 41, of the activist group MOVE. “Slavery didn’t end just because some old fat white men just decided they were going to release the slaves. It ended because people fought and worked hard and died and struggled for that to happen."
Africa rallied the crowd around what has become an increasingly common call, to “defund the police.”
The event was hosted by organizations including Philly for REAL Justice, Black Lives Matter Philly, and the Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration.
“We rise up to protest the death of George Floyd, a man who was killed during an arrest for an alleged forged $20 check,” the Facebook event page stated. “We must do the same for the people in prisons who have been terrorized by state violence for years!”
Protester Alexandria Phillips stayed away from Saturday’s giant march because of concerns about transmission of the coronavirus, opting instead for Sunday’s smaller protest.
“It goes under the radar that black trans men and women die a lot,” Phillips said. “They’re really vulnerable for being killed and I think that there needs to be more publicity about it.”
On Sunday Philadelphia officials issued coronavirus guidance for protesters, saying there could be “an increased likelihood” they may have been exposed. Demonstrators should get tested after being in a large group, monitor themselves for symptoms, and continue to wear masks and follow social-distancing guidelines, the city said in an update.
Demonstrators at Eastern State traveled to Philadelphia Police Headquarters, where dozens of officers and National Guard members stood behind a metal barricade.
So far 768 people have been arrested during the protests, including 494 for curfew violations and failure to disperse, and 236 for looting or burglary, city officials said on Sunday. Twenty-seven police officers have been injured and one remains hospitalized.
At shuttered Hahnemann University Hospital, dozens of doctors, nurses, and supporters rallied to decry what they called “alarming and unacceptable” racial disparities in health care.
“Today is just a start in trying to rebuild trust between the black community of Philadelphia and the medical system,” said organizer Claire Bogan, who was a psychiatry resident at Hahnemann before being displaced last summer.
African Americans in Philadelphia have been more than twice as likely as whites to be infected with the coronavirus. For Bogan and others at the rally, the shell of 100-year-old Hahnemann was symbolic because the hospital had served largely low-income or indigent patients, many of them minorities.
Across the river in New Jersey, hundreds snaked through the streets of Gloucester City. Tajee Almon, 26, led the march with shouts of, “No justice, no peace. No racist police.”
Police Chief Michael Morrell knelt as Black Lives Matter protesters read the names of African Americans killed by police officers.
“Gloucester City is a good city,” Mayor Dan Spencer told the crowd outside St. Mary’s Church. “You are all welcome here.”
At the Italian Market, shoppers found the controversial visage of Rizzo had vanished.
“It was such an assault on the eyes,” said Susan DiPronio, 70, who was visiting the market.
A divisive statue of the former mayor was removed from outside the Municipal Services Building last week, and on Sunday presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said the totem never should have been erected in the first place.
Biden — a longtime Rizzo critic — commended city leaders, saying, “Mayor Kenney and local officials were right to remove it.”
At the market, Janet Anastasi, an owner of Anastasi Seafood at Ninth Street and Washington Avenue, said she had long worked near the mural without thinking of how disenfranchised communities might view the former mayor. The week’s outpouring of frustration and anger forced her to confront that legacy, she said.
“Even people who grew up with him and saw some of the positive things he accomplished," said Michaela O’Connell, 23, who recently moved into the neighborhood from New York, "I think they also realize he caused a lot of pain in certain communities. He became a symbol of oppression.”
Gloria Coles, 57, who was in line at Cannuli’s meat shop, was glad to see the mural gone.
“He was racist,” she said. “They should put Obama up there.”