Demonstrations large and small took place across Philadelphia on Saturday, the 22nd consecutive day of protests since the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.
But even as about 25 protesters gathered in the evening at City Hall, where they spoke in support of Black lives, eyes focused on far-off Oklahoma, where President Trump fueled his re-election campaign with a rally inside a 19,000-seat indoor arena.
Health officials had urged him not to go forward as cases of the coronavirus mount in Tulsa. Masks were not required, and video and photographs showed few in the relatively sparse crowd wearing them.
“If you’re with Trump,” Shawna Williams, 28, said at City Hall, “there’s no way you could be for social justice.”
The Southwest Philadelphia woman said she came to the event, sponsored by Refuse Fascism, because she was upset over how she was treated by Trump supporters gathered in South Philadelphia to guard a statue of Christopher Columbus, which protesters want taken down.
Williams, who is Black, said statue supporters poured beer on her, encouraged by a president whose words and actions show he doesn’t “fight for Black lives.”
Jacqueline Guy came with her husband and son, from Morton, Delaware County, to “use my white privilege to help every Black and brown person until their life is as respected as mine.”
Her husband and son are Black, and she feels a special responsibility to speak. Her son, Gabe, 14, said he wanted to come to a Black Lives Matter protest because he’s sick of being looked at “like I’m suspicious” and weary of hearing the pro-police slogan, “Blue Lives Matter.”
”‘Blue’ isn’t a life. You can take your uniform off. I can’t take my skin off,” he said.
The protest was led by family members and friends of Fells, a Black trans woman who was recently slain in Philadelphia, and billed as the #SayHerName March for Justice.
“We can’t wait on anyone to dismantle the patriarchy,” said La’Tasha D. Mayes, president of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, which organized the march. “We can’t wait on anyone to dismantle white supremacy. … Whatever injustices are ahead, the only way that we will win is if we win together.”
Protesters held signs that said, “Trans Lives Matter,” “Justice for Breonna” and “99 Days is Too Long,” referencing the passage of time since Taylor, a Louisville EMT, was shot to death by police who broke through the door of her apartment in what they said was a drug sting.
“The fact that we have to come here and march in the streets of Philadelphia and others are doing the same across the country and around the world is disheartening to us,” said Fells’ mother, Terri Edmonds. “Tolerance and acceptance should be a natural, common way of life.”
YahNé Ndgo, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Philly, spoke to the crowd when the march stopped at 52nd and Sansom Streets, an area where police and protesters violently clashed days after Floyd’s death.
Ndgo cried as an organizer read the names of victims.
“It’s too many names,” Ndgo said. “I wouldn’t exist without all the diversity of [the Black] community, and I wouldn’t want to.”
A different demonstration moved along Taney Street in the city’s Fitler Square neighborhood, calling for the route to be renamed. The street honors former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, principal author of the infamous Dred Scott v. Sanford decision, which held in 1857 that Black people, enslaved or free, had no legal standing because they were not and could not be U.S. citizens.
Fitler Square Neighbors collected more than 470 signatures on petitions even before the demonstration began at the Markward Playground. Statues of Taney have been removed in Baltimore and Annapolis.
After boarding up the Christopher Columbus monument at Penn’s Landing this week, the Delaware River Waterfront Corp. asked visitors to leave chalk messages to answer the question, “What are your hopes for the future of Philadelphia?”
By Saturday afternoon the chalkboard was full of responses: Justice. Truth. Defund the police. The nonprofit group said the monument was boarded up to ensure public safety and “reduce continued pain” as the discussion of its fate goes forward.
Though closed to the public by the pandemic, the Barnes opened an outdoor Father’s Day program to recognize and honor African American fathers.
The installation by West Philly–based photographer Ken McFarlane, From the Root to the Fruit: Portraits of Black Fathers and Their Children, is being projected on the institution’s exterior walls, aiming to counter narratives of absent fathers.
Staff writers Rita Giordano and Heather Khalifa contributed to this article, as did wire service from the Washington Post.