Several hundred people marched Friday evening through Center City demanding racial justice for victims of police violence such as Jacob Blake, the Black man shot seven times in the back by an officer in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 23.
Standing in “solidarity with the rebellion against racist police violence across the country,” the protesters rallied at Dilworth Park starting at 5 p.m. and then made their way to Police Headquarters at Eighth and Race Streets. The group eventually returned to City Hall and dispersed around 7:30.
A large police presence accompanied the march, as well as guarded the headquarters, but there were no incidents involving police and demonstrators.
Some of the protest signs read “From Kenosha to Philly, Jail Racist Vigilantes” and “No Militarized Cops, Disarm and Defund the Police.”
Speaking at the beginning of the protest, Mecca Bullock, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, said, “White supremacy is why we are here.” She called for protesters to demand the abolition of the police, saying: “How do you reform a system that is broken?”
A’Brianna Morgan, an activist with Reclaim Philadelphia, outlined a list of demands that included defunding the police and diverting funds toward community programming, like housing and education.
She read the names of 11 city councilmembers who have not publicly supported the “defund” mantra, and called on protesters to press them to commit to a 15% annual budget reduction with the ultimate goal of dismantling the Philadelphia Police Department.
She also denounced how some have responded to the police killings of Black people by noting criminal records or allegations of wrongdoing.
”Black people who have done illegal s— or caused harm,” she said, “deserve to live just as much as anybody else.”
Other local policy priorities for the protesters include abolishing the police union and the Police Advisory Commission, and releasing more inmates in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 in prisons.
The police shooting of Blake, who is now paralyzed from the waist down, ignited a new wave of demonstrations for racial justice — including protests by high-profile athletes — in the United States, three months after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis spurred weeks of demonstrations and a national reckoning over racism and policing. Protesters took to the streets in Philadelphia every day for weeks after Floyd was killed.
Friday’s rally was organized by the Philadelphia chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which has been behind some of the largest demonstrations in the city over the course of the past several months, including one on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on June 6 that drew thousands of people, spanning the streets from the Museum of Art to City Hall.
The civil unrest that has gripped America for months took a violent turn over the past two weeks. In Wisconsin, Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old white man and self-styled militia member from Illinois, faces homicide charges after authorities say he opened fire in the street, killing two people and wounding a third.
Days later, a caravan of supporters of President Donald Trump engaged protesters in Portland, Ore., and Aaron J. Danielson, a supporter of right-wing group Patriot Prayer, was fatally shot during a clash with protesters. Authorities suspected the shooter was left-wing activist Michael Forest Reinoehl, 48, whom police shot and killed Thursday as they attempted to take him into custody.
Anger among protesters rose again this week following the fatal shootings by law-enforcement officers of Black men in Los Angeles County and Washington, and with the release of a video showing a naked and handcuffed Black man, Daniel Prude, being suffocated by police in Rochester, N.Y., in March.
Prude, 41, appeared to be suffering from a mental-health episode when police confronted him. In the video, he complied with police orders to lie face down on the ground. After he was handcuffed, he became agitated and police put a “spit hood” over his head to protect the officers from bodily fluids. An officer held his head against the ground for several minutes. At some point Prude lost consciousness and was transported to a hospital, where he died.