‘Philly is Baltimore’ protest involves students, community

Freddie Gray’s death led to demonstrations in several cities.

Franklin Ford, 87, marches in the “Philly is Baltimore” protest on April 30. | Harrison Brink TTN
Franklin Ford, 87, marches in the “Philly is Baltimore” protest on April 30. | Harrison Brink TTN

Tempers flared as protesters clashed with Philadelphia police Thursday night during a march in support of those protesting in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray.

Gray, 25, was arrested April 12 and died a week later due to a spinal cord injury. Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said during a press conference Friday that he suffered a severe neck injury while handcuffed in the back of the Baltimore police van following his arrest, the Washington Post reported.

The officers involved in the incident have been charged with assault and other charges, and the van driver was charged with manslaughter.

Gray’s death has been the most recent national rallying point for increased oversight and prevention of police misconduct, a movement not lost on college campuses.

Several Temple students, including Ph.D. candidate Melanie Newport and senior journalism and political science double major Rose Daraz, attended the event, called “Philly is Baltimore.”

Newport, who is writing her dissertation on the prison system, has been attending rallies opposing racism and police brutality since the protests held after Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012.

“This is historic,” Newport said. “This has been building for a long time. It’s a civil rights movement. You have to be involved in it to live with yourself.”

Newport added that the rally’s crowd was bigger than rallies she’s attended in the past.

Daraz said she focused more on supporting the protesters in Baltimore, who clashed with police last week, leading to a 10 p.m. curfew in the city and an empty Orioles baseball game.

“I came out in solidarity with Baltimore,” she said. “Black lives are endangered. We should all be out here.”

A brief confrontation between law enforcement and demonstrators occurred at the corner of Broad and Vine streets as the protesters were attempting to stop traffic on the Vine Street Expressway. The officers eventually fell back and allowed the march to continue on Vine Street. At least two people were detained as a result of the incident, the Inquirer reported.

Aside from that moment of tension, the protest was mostly peaceful. The march followed several speeches in Dilworth Park organized by the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice.

Tanya Brown-Dickerson, whose son, Brandon Tate-Brown, was killed in a police shooting in Northeast Philadelphia on Dec. 15, 2014, told the crowd she was “thankful” for its presence, and said her son was “gunned down like a dog.” Brown-Dickerson said she wished the public could have seen the video shown to her by the police’s Internal Affairs office. The video was not released, and the District Attorney’s office cleared the officers in March.

Protesters marched through several neighborhoods in Center City and chanted a variety of slogans for their cause. The crowd yelled,“You are not alone,” when they gathered at the Federal Detention Center. The hands of those inside could be seen through the narrow windows. Business owners and pedestrians appeared confused when the demonstrators marched through Chinatown. When protesters were face-to-face with police officers at the Four Seasons Hotel, they shouted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” a chant which rose to popularity after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The marchers forced roads to shut down all over Center City and attracted many police officers—including those on bikes, horses, motorcycles, in cars and vans, on foot and in a helicopter. Despite the clear animosity between law enforcement and protesters and several anxious moments, the demonstration lacked the violence of Monday night’s riots in Baltimore.

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jack.tomczuk@temple.edu or on Twitter @JackTomczuk.

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