Rally against police violence takes over Center City

Rally against police violence takes over Center City
Alexis Sachdev

More than 100 people marched through Philadelphia Mondaytoprotest police violence, blocking major roadways in Center City during morning rush hour.

The local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and protesters gathered at DilworthPark around 8 a.m., where they declared outrage at last week’s spate of police killings of black men.

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) rallies at City Hall

Posted by Metro Philly on Monday, July 11, 2016

“We are saddened and enraged that it’s been another week of horrific police killings of black people in Baton Rouge, in Minneapolis, in Asheville,” an activist said, referencing the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and Jai Williams. “We know that you are beloved by your friends,families and communities, and that your lives matter.”

“We have organized this event today as white Philadelphians because black lives matter … We gather here as white Philadelphians because enough is enough: Stop the police killings of black people.”

John Bergen, 24, helped orchestrate the rally. Raised in a “really, really white” community in Kansas, Bergen said he had never seen what police brutality looked like growing up. It wasn’t until he left home to attend Oberlin College in Ohio that he witnessed a number of racist attacks on campus.

“White people, we didn’t really know what to do beyond empathy. We were upset and we were angry as well, but often when push came to shove, white people didn’t want to challenge administrators, and didn’t want to challenge police,” Bergan said.

“What brings me to doing SURJ work is the need for white people to understand how racism works, how we’re privileged in society, how society is built to protect our lives and not other lives and also that we need to take leadership in this,” he added, expressing the need for action within white communities to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

Citing Philadelphia’s history of violence against black people, includingBrandon Tate-Brown, 26, who was killed during a traffic stop in Mayfair on Dec. 15, 2014, and the 1985 MOVE bombing,the group called out the Philadelphia Police Department for its history of aggression against the black community.

They read the names of 40 people who had been killed by police officers through use of lethal force, including Sterling, Castile, Williams, Brown and Delrawn Small.

The group, which began with about 20 demonstrators, then marched down Market Street, through 16th Street to Vine Street, then back to City Hall down Broad Street, bringing traffic at the Vine Street expressway and along arteries into Center City to a standstill.

More than 100 marchersgathered in the courtyard at City Hall, demanding action from Mayor Jim Kenney, chanting “Jim Kenney take a stand, we know blood is on your hands.”

“We close our action today at the footsteps of Mayor Kenney’s office,” said demonstrator Morgan Bartz. “We end our action today letting Mayor Kenney and city officials know that we’ll be back.”

“We’re gonna continue to show up in very public ways again and again until Mayor Kenney and this city decides to actually show how it cares about black lives.”

Lisa Santerhas been protesting since she was 19. Nearly 40 years later, she was on the front lines of Monday’s march, carrying a sign that declared “WHITE SILENCE IS VIOLENCE#BLACKLIVESMATTER.”

Santer, a Quaker, said she is acting on her faith by showing up at such protests. Her first demonstration was to protest the police killings of black men in her neighborhood.

“It’s a painful week, the loss of life is awful,” she said. “Perhaps, it’s possible that this is the time when truth is coming to the surface so we can see it and address it. That’s my prayer.”

When asked if, after the shooting at a protest in Dallas that killed five police officers and injured twocivilians, Santer feared for her safety during marches, she acknowlegedthat, though she’s at risk, so are members of the black community.

“Every black person I know is at risk every day, is hurt by racism every day,” Santer said.”I’m not that special.”