ON FRIDAY night, Dec. 19, Maryann Trombetta, president of the Port Richmond Town Watch, joined her fellow neighbors and residents of the river-ward community at Campbell Square Park, on Allegheny Avenue, the main street of Port Richmond. Bundled up in two pairs of socks, a hoodie, jacket and gloves, Trombetta took to the streets as part of a city-wide "blue out" to show support for not only the Philadelphia Police Department but police departments and officers across the United States.
Trombetta and Marie Larkins, an organizer of the rally, did not light a trash can on fire and throw it through the window of Pat's Auto Tags, on the corner of Belgrade Street and Allegheny Avenue, to destroy a family-owned business that has been on that corner for decades. Furthermore, other Port Richmond businesses along the Allegheny Avenue corridor were untouched and spared. Marian's Polish Bakery reported that not one babka, chrusciki or cheese danish was stolen, and all powdered sugar was accounted for.
The three banks that are a stone's throw from the rally did not have any stones or rocks thrown at their windows. The ATM machines were not ripped out of the walls, and, the next morning, not a penny was missing from the vaults.
Campbell Square's Christmas Tree and manger set were undisturbed during the rally. The Church of the Nativity B.V.M. reported that its shrine to St. Mary had a few more flowers laid at her feet. The statue was not picked up and thrown through a church stained-glassed window.
Further northeast, in Mayfair, at the infamous corner of Cottman and Frankford avenues, hundreds of Mayfair residents came out in force, holding signs and wearing blue, asking traffic to beep and honk in support of the men and women in blue who protect and serve their streets and community. This intersection is the heart of Mayfair and became a celebration headquarters when the Phillies took the World Series in 2008, when thousands celebrated in the streets.
The Mayfair rally seemed to be a family-oriented affair as there were so many school-age kids there, bundled up to support the police and the 15th District. These hundreds of kids did not break the windows of Pat's Music and steal all the guitars, DJ speakers and drum sets. Beneficial Bank was not set aflame, and the Mayfair Diner was not attacked and robbed. Diner patrons still enjoyed turkey clubs and creamed chipped beef on toast during the Support the Police rally, and they were not attacked, beaten or shot by any member of the Mayfair Civic Association. Harrigan's Bar was not surrounded by an angry mob and looted of its liquor. In fact, the only alcohol lost that night came from this Jersey chick, home from college, who couldn't hold her Coors Light!
Back in Bridesburg, dozens of Bridesburgers came out in force and gathered at the Bridesburg Recreation Center, the hub of the neighborhood. As the mob gathered around the Christmas tree, not one bulb was smashed, not one ornament was stolen. Holding signs of support for the Philly police and their 15th Police District, the people of Bridesburg did not descend on the Aqua String Band clubhouse across the street and set their Mummer costumes on fire. They did not trample their tubas or accost their accordions and bamboozle their banjoes. The cars parked in the Bridesburg VFW Post #2 were not turned over or set on fire. Residents like Kathy Glatts and Michelle James did not lead the mob of police supporters to the Point No Point Christmas tree lot, on Orthodox Street, and torch the evergreens.
The rally continued, being watched by the larger-than-life memorial mural of 15th District Police Officer Gary Skerski painted on the wall of the Bridesburg Rec Center after he was killed in the line of duty on May 8, 2006, while responding to an armed robbery call at Pat's Café, near the intersection of Arrott and Adams avenues, in Northwood.
Skerski was the 15th Police District Community Relations Officer for Bridesburg and is the official guardian angel of the Bridesburg Rec.
The night Skerski was killed, a patron in the café had called 9-1-1 to report the robbery. Officer Skerski, who was working an overtime detail for the department, responded to the scene. As he approached the door he was confronted by the suspect, who was exiting the café. The suspect immediately opened fire with a shotgun, striking Officer Skerski in the neck, and then fled on foot.
Officer Skerski was transported to Temple University Hospital where he succumbed to his wounds just before midnight, leaving a wife, son and daughter.
These rallies held by these middle-class, blue-collar, rowhouse posses of the river-ward neighborhoods were in response to the protests against police officers and departments cropping up in Philadelphia. Protests such as "die-ins," in which crowds lay down in a public place, chanting, "I can't breathe."
Ironically, Gary Skerski can't breathe either. All he can do is look over the Bridesburg Rec Center from his memorial mural and watch as the people of Port Richmond, Mayfair and Bridesburg didn't destroy and incinerate their city and neighborhoods as they peacefully protested and rallied because they believe that Police Lives Matter, Too.