Philadelphia police officers clashed with protesters outside Mayor Jim Kenney’s condo building Tuesday evening, and five people were hospitalized with injuries and two protesters charged with assault.
ACT UP Philadelphia had planned a protest and barbecue to call for more action to reduce homelessness in the city. Police were present as a group of about 35 people gathered and set up a grill for the event at Third and Race Streets in Old City, outside Kenney’s building.
An officer approached to ask them to move out of a driveway into the condo complex, police said. After that, police and ACT UP members disagree on how the altercation began and unfolded.
Sgt. Eric Gripp, a police spokesperson, said officers gave three warnings for a person to stop walking down the driveway of the condo complex, and after the third warning, a sergeant with the civil affairs unit “placed his hand on the individual’s back to escort them off the property.” The person then hit the sergeant, Gripp said.
Jamaal Henderson, a spokesperson for ACT UP, said he was standing nearby and disagrees with that account. “What he did is shove her hard enough to send her flying forward,” he said. “That’s when things went squirrelly.”
Henderson said he was outside the scuffle of officers and protesters that became “all one crowd,” and witnessed officers knocking people over.
Gripp said the person who had initially been warned to leave the driveway broke free into a crowd of protesters and several officers went into the crowd in an attempt to locate the individual who had hit the sergeant. That person bit an officer on the forearm while being arrested, Gripp said, and a second protester punched the sergeant. Both of those people were arrested and charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, defiant trespassing, and reckless endangerment.
Four activists were taken to the hospital, including the two who were charged. Henderson said all have been released. The civil affairs sergeant was taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and treated for a broken finger, Gripp said.
ACT UP Philadelphia, which advocates for people with HIV and AIDS, has previously held protests outside Kenney’s condo building to call for more action from the city to end homelessness. The group calls its gatherings “Tuesdays at Kenney’s,” and held four other protests there in June and July, according to its Facebook page.
Henderson said the group plans to continue holding its weekly protests.
“We’re not going to let Philadelphia PD bully us into not exercising our constitutional right to protest,” he said.
Henderson said civil affairs officers have been present at previous protests, and said the group has never seen the mayor while standing outside the condo building.
“The mayor learned of the incident after it was over and was not on site during the protest activity,” Kevin Lessard, a spokesperson for Kenney, said of Tuesday’s incident.
In response to ACT UP’s criticism of Kenney’s policies on homelessness, Lessard said the administration “won’t rest until everyone is housed,” but noted that the administration’s policies have helped reduce homelessness and family homelessness, which are both increasing nationwide.