BY: Samaira Bailey
More than 2,000 marchers shut down traffic on Broad Street, from Green to Arch and some parallel streets, in a demonstration to “unmask white supremacy,” on Wednesday evening.
The Philadelphia police civil affairs department estimated that 2,200 people took part in the demonstration, “#PhillyisCharlottesville,” which was organized by Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER) as a response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12.
“We are attempting to deal with issues that were raised by the incident [Aug. 12],” said POWER Executive Director Gregory Holston. “We are unmasking white supremacy as it was unmasked in Charlottesville. To unmask it in Philadelphia, we have to look at the institutions that continue to perpetuate white supremacy.”
City Councilwoman Helen Gym also stood with the clergy and State Sen. Vincent Hughes walked with the crowd.
Throughout the march, organizers and local leaders such as Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan and Erica Almironz of Juntos, a Latinx-immigrant rights nonprofit, spoke out and pushed for a united front, asking that people support the micro causes that are worsened by white supremacy.
In between the speeches, marchers shouted chants of “No justice, no peace,” “No good cops in a racist system,” and toward the end an intense “Black Lives Matter.”
“Tonight, we are asking that people will help us move an agenda we believe will will help dismantle white supremacy in Philadelphia and in Pennsylvania,” said the Rev. Mark Tyler, Senior Pastor of Mother Bethel AME Church. “We are asking state Senator Eichelberger to do what he said, which is to call a hearing about bias in the fair funding formula that will eliminate the unequal distribution of funds to school students who just happen to be Black or Brown throughout our state. We are asking people to directly tweet to or email Mayor Jim Kenney — that he will live up to his campaign promise to put at least $1.5 million in the police oversight committee, which is known as the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission.
“Currently the funding is less than half a million and they are woefully staffed and cannot investigate adequately charges of police misconduct and brutality,” Tyler added. “We are asking people to reach out by tweet or by email to City Council President Darrell Clarke that he will help City Council in an effort to raise the city minimum wage to $15 and hour. It’s a moral imperative that we do this so we can lift Black and Brown … families out of poverty into a living wage situation.”
Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad, of the Fellow for Spirituality, Wellness and Social Justice at the University of Pennsylvania, spoke at a brief program held at Arch Street United Methodist Church at the end of the march. She issued a call to white allies.
“It is time we set aside this performative moral indignation,” Rashad said. “There is some work we have to do.”
She continued that such work included “tough conversations” with family and friends and confronting uncomfortable issues.
“Let us together — individually and collectively — break this silence,” she said.