This year’s tapping of the Liberty Bell was a livestreamed, global event
This year’s in-person tapping of the Liberty Bell on Independence Day was administered by several descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence — who donned masks and gloves and stood six feet apart in deference to the coronavirus — including Lucy Duke Tonacci, a descendant of Richard Henry Lee, and the Rev. W. Douglas Banks, fifth-generation grandson of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, who was enslaved by him.
People across the country and world were encouraged to join in by tapping a glass, ringing a bell, or banging on a pot or pan.
The event was especially poignant given the police killing in May of a black man by a white police officer in Minneapolis, and the resulting widespread protests against police brutality and racism, demonstrations that continued in Philadelphia Saturday, steps from the Liberty Bell.
Atlantic City police arrest 7 protesters during march that blocked traffic
ATLANTIC CITY — Seven people were arrested Saturday after blocking the Atlantic City Expressway during a peaceful protest through the streets of this gambling resort.
The “Show Up or Shut Up” rally and march started around 1 p.m. with about a dozen people holding signs and chanting “Black Lives Matter” outside the city’s public safety building on the 2700 block of Atlantic Avenue.
Protest leader Steve Young spoke to the growing crowd, and called on city officials to allocate more casino revenue to help rebuild the city’s impoverished areas. He then lead a march through the streets and lead chants of “No justice, no peace,” and “say it loud, I’m black and proud.”
The group shut down traffic on the Albany Avenue drawbridge, and were warned by an officer with a bullhorn that gathering there was against the law. He ordered the crowd to disperse or face arrest. The group moved on after a second warning, snaking through the heart of the city, passing the Tanger Outlet stores on Baltic Avenue and temporarily shutting down traffic to the city’s major arteries for about an hour.
The protest ended on North Missouri Avenue near the Exit 2 off-ramp of the expressway, where police arrested Young and six other men. Shortly after, the crowd dispersed.
Black trans protesters say unity needed in fight against violence and inequality
Trans rights activist Alonda Talley told protesters on Independence Day that the community has to be united, because if anyone is being persecuted, everyone is. She addressed protesters in the middle of Chestnut Street, across from the Liberty Bell, who held up signs memorializing trans men and women who have died recently. Talley knew many of them, she said. And she called for people to not limit their activism to Saturday’s protest.
”Do not go back to your daily routine,” she said. “Rise up, stand up, do something.”
Talley and other speakers said the violence against Black people, including Black trans people, isn’t limited to just murder and physical violence: it manifests as discrimination in housing, at the workplace, and in other scenarios.
Roberto Thornton organized Saturday’s protest with the Black Trans Assembly for Abolition. He said the event was prompted by recent violence against trans women, including here in Philadelphia, and the lack of outrage that he saw as a result.
”This issue is important to us and this today is a big turnout,” he said. “It echoes that we do have people, but it’s not enough. We’re going to project our voices until our demands are heard.”
Military flyover expected in Philly sky this evening
Coronavirus took away Philadelphia’s official fireworks, but the city will celebrate July 4 with the thunderous sound of military jets flying over that are expected to be visible in Center City and in areas along the Delaware River late Saturday afternoon.
The Thunderbirds and a group of bombers and fighter jets from the Air Force and Marine Corps will pass over Center City Philadelphia about 5:15 p.m. after first flying over Boston and New York City as part of a nod to cities that played an important role securing the county’s independence during the American Revolution.
They’ll fly over Independence Hall and Center City at 1,000 feet above the ground before proceeding southwest and heading toward Fort McHenry in Baltimore. According to the Pentagon, residents along the flight path can expect a few seconds of jet noise as the aircraft pass overhead, flying in close formation.
The Benjamin Franklin Bridge’s pedestrian walkway, closed for April’s Thunderbirds-Blue Angels flyover, will remain open. City spokesperson Mike Dunn warned people to “wear a mask and practice social distancing” if they head outside to watch the aircraft pass over.
Black Lives Matter protest in Atlantic City is peaceful under police watch
Elsewhere down the Shore, about a dozen peaceful protesters were holding signs and chanting “Black Lives Matter” around 1 p.m. outside the Public Safety building on Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City. The small crowd was being overseen by police, but no traffic disruptions so far. pic.twitter.com/s4V8Vwbsar
Abu-Jamal addresses protesters in Philly from prison
The Protest Police Terror rally at the Municipal Services Building got a boost from the very man whom demonstrators were saying should be freed from prison: Mumia Abu-Jamal. Speaking on a call from the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy that was played over a megaphone, Abu-Jamal said he stands with the protesters, and appreciated their support.
“This is a special time,” he said. “A time like someone my age hasn’t seen in many years. But it’s a time that’s finally here, and that means it’s the right time.”
Abu-Jamal is serving a life sentence in the 1981 murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
Johanna Fernandez, a history professor at Baruch College, told the protesters that the country is in the “middle of a revolution,” and that the people assembled Saturday have a “moral assignment” to call for the release of Abu-Jamal and other prisoners.
”There’s a new generation of fierce Black people, of fierce indigenous people, of fierce Latino people, of fierce John Brown white people who are picking up the baton from previous generations,” she said.
Fernandez also called for the abolition of police, saying their ranks have been infiltrated by white supremacy. “This struggle, and the struggle to demand to bring Mumia home is a struggle to tell authority that they can’t lock us away for standing up for our rights,” she said.
Protest groups converge at Municipal Services Building, hold mock Rizzo statue eulogy
Protest and counterprotest groups converged at the Municipal Services Building near City Hall just after noon Saturday. About 100 protesters with Protest Police Terror were there to call for the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, whom they claim has been unjustly imprisoned for 38 years. They were joined by members of Red Fists Rising, who performed a traditional African ritual, which they said cleansed the space around them. Pam Africa, of the activist group MOVE, called not only for the release of Abu-Jamal, but for reform of the city’s police department.
MOVE members are now holding a sarcastic “eulogy” for the Frank Rizzo statue, which the city recently removed from the site of the protest. They thanked members of MOVE and Philly Real Justice for applying pressure to have the statue removed.
A small counterprotest challenged the larger demonstration. About 10 anti-abortion demonstrators demonized George Floyd, the Black man killed in May when a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes, and criticized the movement to “defund the police.”
The larger protest mostly ignored the group, though a few Philadelphia police officers formed a barricade around them using their bikes.
Red-fisted protesters gather to remember civil rights activists who have died
About 20 protesters gathered outside of 30th Street Station in West Philadelphia around noon on Saturday. The group calling themselves Red Fists Rising painted their hands as a symbol of honoring civil rights activists who have died in the last few decades.The groups organizer, Ash’Raka Juel, directed the group on a planned march to link up with other demonstrations against police brutality in Center City.”This world must be respected by everybody,” he said. “We’re not here for defense, we’re here for offense. We’re not waiting for White supremacists to attack, we’re trying to push them out.”The group raised their painted fists in silence for nine minutes before their march, a symbolic gesture referencing the amount of time an officer in Minneapolis kneeled on the neck of George Floyd, killing him.
At 2 p.m. today, Independence National Historical Park, the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of Revolution, and the Descendants of the Declaration of Independence will cohost the annual tapping of the Liberty Bell, and this year, people all over the world can participate.
This year’s ceremony will be livestreamed globally for the first time, and all are invited to join U.S. naval ships, fire departments, churches, and other institutions in showing their own expression of freedom through tapping a glass, ringing a bell, or banging on a pot or pan.
”In the recent weeks, with the pandemic and rightful indignation of racial and religious inequalities, everyone is in need of demonstrating a positive way to proclaim the rights and freedoms represented by the Liberty Bell,” Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of Revolution president Ben Wolf said in a statement, calling the event “a show of solidarity for everyone’s liberties.”
The in-person tapping will be administered by several descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence — donning masks and gloves and maintaining six feet apart — including Lucy Duke Tonacci, a descendant of Richard Henry Lee, and the Rev. W. Douglas Banks, fifth-generation grandson of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, who was enslaved by Jefferson.
Bring your phone to the Art Museum steps and see the “Liberty Bell” in a new way
A giant “Liberty Bell” is set to be swinging above the Art Museum steps this Independence Day, but you’ll need a phone app to see it. The “bell” is part of a major augmented reality artwork scheduled to debut July 4 at sites in six U.S. cities, including Philly, according to its organizers.
Viewers who download an app, 4th Wall, from either Apple’s app store or Google Play and bring their phones to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will be able to watch artist Nancy Baker Cahill’s work Liberty Bell appear, Pokémon Go-style, hovering in the air above the museum. The augmented reality work shows an animated bell shape made of red, white, and blue ribbons of color. It swings and rings — eventually deconstructing then reconstructing in what the artwork’s local sponsors describe as “an uncomfortable, but cohesive moment.” It’s about a minute and a half long.
Liberty Bell is intended to raise questions of what freedom means right now — and for whom — as the country endures a pandemic and citizens demand racial justice, said Baker Cahill in a statement accompanying the work’s release. “You can’t have a conversation about freedom and not talk about the history of slavery and inequality in the United States. … That’s the conversation we need to have.”
Protests against police brutality planned around Philly on Independence Day
A number of protests against police brutality are scheduled throughout the Philadelphia area on Independence Day. Marches and rallies have been held regularly in Philadelphia and in cities across the country following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes in May.
At Penn State and other campuses, Black studies professors and students lead the call for change
Pennsylvania State University president Eric Barron didn’t consult with the school’s African American Studies department before crafting his response to the killing of George Floyd.
He should have, said department head Cynthia Young.
“It just feels like this is a moment where our expertise should be central to whatever response the university crafts,” said Young, an associate professor of African American Studies and English.
In his May 30 statement, Barron pledged the school’s commitment to “disrupting hate, bias and racism whenever and wherever we encounter it and to creating the most inclusive and diverse community that we possibly can.” Days later, he announced steps to get there, including antibias training for all employees and a new commission on racism, bias, and community safety.
The 25-member department wanted more. In a June 16 letter to Barron, its members advocated cutting ties with local police and disarming campus police, requiring all students to take a course in anti-Black racism, offering more support to Black students and scholars and creating a task force on local policing and communities of color. A petition supporting their statement has drawn more than 1,000 signatures.
The concerns mirror those from Black student groups and professors around the country calling for change and a leading role in reforms in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.
The process of arresting protesters and giving them civil citations has been used widely during the month of civil unrest that began May 30. More than 750 people have been arrested, cited, and released, while criminal charges have been largely reserved for looting or violence. Many are glad to avoid the criminal-legal system. But civil rights lawyers say the citation process is being used to make illegal arrests and stifle free speech and is being used inequitably.
Penn removes statue of slavery supporter, forms group to look at campus iconography
The University of Pennsylvania on Thursday announced it would remove the statue of a slavery supporter from its quad and form a group to review all campus iconography.
“This group will engage in broad outreach across our community and advise us on further steps to ensure that the placement and presence of statues and other prominent iconography better reflects our achievements and aspirations to increase the diversity of the Penn community,” Penn president Amy Gutmann, Provost Wendell Pritchett, and Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli said in a campus message.
The statue of George Whitefield, a mid-18th century evangelical preacher who led the campaign to allow slavery in Georgia, was erected in the early 20th century, Penn said. Whitefield’s connection to Penn stems from the university’s earliest days. He owned a church meetinghouse at Fourth and Arch Streets that was purchased by Benjamin Franklin, Penn’s founder, to house the Academy of Philadelphia, which was a predecessor to Penn.