The group that has been leading the fieriest marches into the streets of Philadelphia to rage against police brutality says it was born out of grief and sadness.

But don't expect the Philadelphia Coalition for Racial, Economic and Legal (REAL) Justice to start pushing for prayers, tears, and candlelight vigils in the coming weeks as the Democratic National Convention and thousands of cameras and media members come to town.

The coalition's members have been arrested, have gone face-to-face with city police, and have confronted former President Bill Clinton. And on Saturday night, one leader characterized the shooting deaths of five Dallas police officers as "justified rage."

"The coalition is about justice. Justice or else," said Asa Khalif, one of the organizers. "Our method at times may be frowned upon, but we get results. We're not dumping on anyone who decides to have candlelight vigils, but we want action. If we don't get no justice, you don't get no peace."

The coalition, Khalif said, numbers around 1,000 members, including some smaller groups. Its origins can be traced to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. and the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer.

Khalif, who also is active in the Black Lives Matter movement, said his personal motivation was the shooting death of his cousin Brandon Tate-Brown by Philadelphia police during a traffic stop in Mayfair later in 2014.

Tate-Brown's death also inspired Mount Airy resident Megan Malachi to get involved with the coalition. She recalls her sister calling her to tell her about Tate-Brown and listening to the Police Department's statements about the shooting.

"That was something that seemed really wrong to both myself and my sister. We sought to have more transparency," Malachi, who teaches history to middle and high school students, said Monday. "We had to fight to get them to release the name of the cops. We had to fight for the video. His mother, Tanya Brown-Dickerson, found out her son was dead from television. To me that was something that was so egregious and so wrong."

No officer was charged in Tate-Brown's death. Police said Tate-Brown was shot and killed after a struggle with police officers who had pulled him over.

Malachi said the coalition recently held its 40th town hall meeting at the Friends Center at 15th and Cherry Streets. It has organized numerous protests and demonstrations for Tate-Brown, for the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and even during the Mummers Parade this year. Protesters were arrested at the parade, at a vigil the coalition helped organize at Temple University last year, and during a community policing meeting in Lawncrest with District Attorney Seth Williams and former Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.

Rufus Farmer, a founding member of the coalition, was one of those arrested. He said he was inspired by the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who was put in a choke hold by police in New York City in 2014.

Farmer, 33, said the coalition's goal - the "liberation of black and brown people" - can start in Philadelphia by ending policies he deems inherently racist, like the Police Department's use of stop-and-frisk.

"That has to stop," Farmer said. "It is essentially racial profiling made into policy. Putting an end to stop-and-frisk will slowly lead to the liberation of black and brown people."

Though no one was arrested Saturday, the coalition's "Weekend of Rage" march to the 24th and 25th Police Districts in North Philadelphia was one of its most fiery, with antipolice chants laced with obscenities.

Khalif said he echoed President Obama's recent sentiments that "well-meaning activists" can't be held accountable for everything said at a protest.

"People have a right to say and express how they feel when they are responding to grief. I can't tell someone what to say," he said. "There's going to always be people who are extreme. I understand where that pain is coming from. I'd rather have them say rhetoric than go purchase a gun and shoot people. If a protest gives you the outlet to get that anger out, I support you."

Police Commissioner Richard Ross said the department has tried to make inroads with coalition members. At least one of its members has Ross' cellphone number, he said, although that person has not yet reached out.

"I don't indict people's right to protest," or their feelings about police and community relations, Ross said. "I wish that we could lower the temperature of some of the rhetoric, but that's just what I wish. If they feel they have to be confrontational, we'll deal with that."

Ross said the police shootings in Dallas had caused police to operate with "a little more caution" in preparations for the Democratic National Convention, but that their overall plan has remained largely the same. "We're not in panic mode," he said.

Christopher Norris, an activist from South Philadelphia and CEO of Techbook Online, said he doesn't agree with all the positions the coalition has taken, but has marched with it, and stressed its importance to black communities in the city.

"They've been the most visible. You haven't seen the NAACP or the National Action Network. There's a lot of groups in the city that want to lay claim to activism. The coalition, regardless of whether I agree with what they say, are forerunners. I'm grateful they are out there," Norris said.

"Some of the things they do or say may be considered over the line or too revolutionary and make people uncomfortable, but they are filling the need of the younger communities who aren't buying the pictures of ministers posing with police."

Khalif said the coalition will hold a protest on July 26 during the DNC called "the Black DNC Resistance March Against Police Terrorism and State Repression," and he expects it to be one of the largest the group has organized.

"We are extremely excited about it. We are prepared for our day of action. We are going to start at Broad and Diamond and going straight to the convention, and I suggest people move the hell out of the way," he said. "We're going to crash the party."


Staff writer Aubrey Whelan contributed to this article.