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April 30, 2015

Hundreds in Philly rally against police violence

Protests Police
_MG_0978 Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

April 30, 2015. Hundreds of protesters gathered at City Hall and marched around Center City.

Up to 1,000 protesters took to Center City streets Thursday afternoon and evening to show solidarity with the demonstrations over police brutality and the death of Freddie Gray, an African-American man who died while in police custody in Baltimore

The march, coordinated by the Philadelphia Coalition for Racial, Economic and Legal Justice, followed similar demonstrations held across the nation, began at City Hall and snaked its way through downtown Philadelphia, including Rittenhouse Square. It lasted several hours. 

"Things went well for the most part," said Philadelphia Police Lt. John Stanford. "There were many decent, respectable citizens who just wanted their voices heard and wanted real change." 

"However, whenever there is a large crowd, there will be a handful that are looking for confrontation and we had a number of these mixed in the crowd, too."

At one point, police and demonstrators had physical confrontations at Broad and Vine streets, but only two people were reported arrested Thursday evening on disorderly conduct charges and no serious injuries were reported during the mostly peaceful protest.

The protests wound their way through the city before arriving at around 10 p.m. at 9th District police precinct, which is located on 21st Street. At that time, police said the number of protesters had declined to about 100 who were cheering against police misconduct.

"Overall, we are very proud of the citizens of Philadelphia and the members of our department for the conduct displayed yesterday," said Stanford.

View the full photo gallery here. 

RELATED: Two arrested as demonstrators march around Center City

PhillyVoice reporters were at the scene. Below is a reverse chronology of what happened. 

10:30 p.m. Police officer at the scene tells PhillyVoice two people were arrested earlier. One was released, the other is to be released at 8th and Race streets. Some of the crowd is headed there. Police say no one is being held at 21st and Hamilton. Crowd has dwindled to about 200 people. 

10:12 p.m. The crowd is gathered in front of the station and is standing face-to-face with a line of cops standing beside their bikes. One officer toward the middle of the crowd is engaging in a conversation. 

9:59 p.m. Crowd arrives at the police station at 21st and Hamilton. Police are gathered outside with bikes lined up as a barrier. 

9:44 p.m. Confusion at Broad Street. The crowd can't decide whether to walk up Broad toward Temple or head west on Spring Garden. Eventually, the crowd decides to head toward 21st and Hamilton after police block off North Broad. There is a police station at 21st and Hamilton. 

9:36 p.m. Protesters are heading toward the police administration building. Some protesters are warning others not to touch doors. No officers are in sight aside from a security officer inside. Police arrive and clear the scene at the administration building. Protesters quickly dissipate and head toward Temple. They halt near Broad and Spring Garden and chant, "United we stand, divided we fall."

9:32 p.m. Crowd headed up North Broad Street. Chants are scattered. No clear endpoint. 

9:30 p.m. The crowd appears to have dwindled to about a third of its original size. 

9:26 p.m. March heading north on 16th Street toward the entrances to I-676. Police motorcycles and bikes head toward the scene. At 16th and Race, one protester who asked to remain anonymous said that looking at Baltimore, he understood there are some things you can't do but understands why it happened. Crowd heading east against traffic on Vine Street. 

A crowd of protesters moves into the area at 15th and Cherry streets in Center City about 9:20 p.m. Thursday. (Thom Carroll / PhillyVoice)

9:17 p.m. Crowd hoists hands in the air, saying, "Hands up, don't shoot," as they pass the motorcade and walk up the Parkway toward City Hall. Some flip off the cops, who stand there without reaction. An African-American couple in a car honk their horn and high-five marchers as they pass by at Cherry and 17th.  

9:13 p.m. Protesters are trying to enter a Four Seasons hotel at 18th and the Parkway. Police are on bikes blocking the entrance as the crowd shouts, "Hands up, don't shoot." The crowd makes their voices heard before moving north toward the Basilica. Police on motorcycles are entering the area via the Parkway. 

9:05 p.m. Protesters briefly gathered around a statue of Frank Rizzo before moving toward Love Park. Chanting is no longer consistent, but shouts briefly break out here and there. The march does not appear to have a clear endpoint as it heads up JFK Boulevard. 

9 p.m. Demonstrators head up toward North Broad Street. Police have blocked the entrance to East Market. Crowd is now chanting, "F--k these pigs!" Police on bikes are scattered around City Hall. 

8:58 p.m. Protesters are standing outside the east entrance to City Hall shouting, "Our streets!" with their fists held high. Additional police are rushed in for support. 

8:55 p.m. Marchers move on City Hall. Police block fences to the courtyard to prevent protesters from entering. 

8:31 p.m. Protesters are banging on the doors of the Federal Detention Center at 7th and Arch and chanting, "F--k the police."

Demonstrators gather outside the Federal Detention Center at 700 Arch St. (Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice)

8:26 p.m. Joelle Schofield, one of the rally's coordinators, says police used pepper spray on protesters at Broad and Vine streets, where protesters tried to pass by cops on horseback blocking the entrance ramp to I-676.

8:22 p.m. As the march continues through Chinatown, the crowd has reverted to chanting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, these racist cops have got to go."

8:14 p.m. Marchers are heading up Vine Street toward police headquarters. 

8:05 p.m. Police open up Vine Street and allow protesters to march up the street.

8 p.m. Protesters and police are standing facing one another as the crowd chants, "Our streets!" 

7:52 p.m. Protesters begin standing, link arms and begin to head southbound on Broad Street. Police on horseback have blocked I-676, but protesters are trying to move forward. Riot police have been brought in to try to control the crowd, which attempted to push past police on horseback. 

Protesters swell at the intersection of Broad and Vine streets. (Thom Carroll / PhillyVoice)

7:40 p.m. update:

Protesters are sitting down at Broad and Vine streets, obstructing a long line of traffic on Vine Street.

The march has now restarted at Broad and Vine, where demonstrators are chanting, "Hey hey, go home, these racists cops have got to go."


The rally pauses at 15th and Vine streets in Center City. (John Kopp / PhillyVoice)

7:10 p.m. update:

The march continues to move up 16th Street toward Vine Street.

Trinique Stallings, a 21-year-old from Baltimore, says she is hopeful the marches will bring about change in policing.

"I feel if I can't be out there, I need to do something here," she said.

Ashley Waters, of Philadelphia, said he is hopeful these demonstrations spark a revolution.

"They're fighting for their freedom," he said of the Baltimore demonstrators. "It just saddens me. In 2015, you'd think we'd be more progressive toward equality."

Marchers turn up Vine and then head up 15th Street.

Police have blocked off the entrance ramps to I-676.

7:10 p.m. update:

The marchers are approaching Market Street via 16th Street.

Dorothy Charles, a 22-year-old medical student, told PhillyVoice that she came out because police violence needs to be treated as a public health issue, much like gun violence.

Charles said she is hopeful that rallies across the country result in substantial changes to police procedures.

"The uprisings that you're seeing show that this has become a really systemic issue," she said. "Because we've made a lot of noise about it, we can push a lot forward. We have a lot of momentum going."

Police have brought out officers on horseback as the rally moves up 16th Street, passing Love Park.

6:53 p.m. update:

The march turns off Walnut and heads north on 16th Street.

6:53 p.m. update:

Philadelphia police officers are walking alongside the marchers. Others are clearing intersections to make way for them. They have not tried to interfere with the demonstrators.

6:43 p.m. update:

At Rittenhouse Square, demonstrators are shouting, "White silence is white content" and "Black lives matter" at white patrons dining outside at Parc and other restaurants on 18th Street.

They chanted as they marched by a McLaren exotic sports car parked outside the Parc restaurant. As they turned the corner against traffic on Walnut Street, they chanted "1-2-3 f--- rich people."

6:32 p.m. update:

The rally has paused at Rittenhouse Square. Demonstrators shout, "White silence is white consent," as Parc patrons dine al fresco.

6:20 p.m. update:

The march is turning west onto Locust Street, against traffic.

6:18 p.m. update:

The march has headed down South Broad Street, interrupting traffic. Marchers are walking in between cars traveling north on Broad. They are chanting, "1-2-3, f--- the police."

At Broad and Locust, the march halts as demonstrators shout, "Take the streets."

Despite some incendiary chants against police, the march has remained peaceful.

6:11 p.m. update:

The demonstrators are marching around City Hall, escorted by police vehicles and bike patrols. As they march, they are chanting, "No justice. No peace."

5:59 p.m. update:

The rally coordinators have cut off the mic and instructed people to begin marching down South Broad Street.

The crowd is chanting, "Whose streets? Our streets."

5:41 p.m. update:

More than hour after the rally began, hundreds of demonstrators remain at Dilworth Park, listening to speaker after speaker.

"This is not a new movement," one woman said. "This is a black movement that has been here since we arrived on this shore. And we won't leave people behind."

Another speaker addressed the white supporters in the crowd and encouraged them to help transform the societal system.

"White comrades, it's a time to support black leadership," he said.

5:14 p.m. update:

Tanya Brown-Dickerson, the mother of Brandon Tate-Brown, who was killed by police following a traffic stop last December, thanked the crowd for demonstrating.

"I am thankful for all of you who believe we, as citizens, have rights," she said.

She said she wants the crowd to see the 37-minute video police showed her of her son's death. She said police brutality won't end until police admit their wrongdoings.

"We can't fix it until they own up to what they do," Brown-Dickerson said. "The bottom line is transparency isn't working right now."


Protesters demand an end to police brutality during a demonstration Thursday afternoon at Philadelphia's City Hall. (Thom Carroll / PhillyVoice)

5:06 p.m. update:

Demonstrators are peacefully crowding around as they listen to a series of speakers, who have condemned police violence, the media's portrayal of the Baltimore riots and the capitalist system.

One speaker said he neither condones nor condemns the riots in Baltimore.

"When you shake a beer or a soda and it explodes, do you blame the soda for exploding?" he asked.

One woman said she had to bury her son in a closed casket because he was badly shot by police in Chester.

"That ain't right," she said. "Everybody out here knows somebody who knows somebody who was a victim of police brutality. I shouldn't have to bury my son. He should bury me."

4:30 p.m. update and background report:

Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered outside Philadelphia's City Hall to protest against racial profiling and police brutality.

Organizers say the rally is aimed at highlighting similarities between Philadelphia and Baltimore, where riots broke out Monday following the funeral of Freddie Gray, an African-American man who died after suffering spinal injuries while in police custody.

The rally, coordinated by the Philadelphia Coalition for Racial, Economic and Legal Justice, follows similar demonstrations held across the nation.

Demonstrators kicked off the rally by declaring an end to police brutality.

Holding placards reading "Philly Is Baltimore," "Black Lives Matter" and "Abolish The Police," demonstrators began chanting.

"No justice, no peace," they shouted. "What do you want? Justice. When do you want it? Now."

One organizer announced the demonstrators are a peaceful group. But, he said, when justice is not served, situations like Ferguson and Baltimore occur.

"Tell the truth and stop the lies," demonstrators shouted. "Freddie Gray didn't have to die."

The event is expected to feature speakers and an open mic.

State Sen. Anthony Williams appeared at the event, but one protester, speaking on mic, commanded him and any other politicians to stand at the back, saying it's not a photo opportunity for the mayoral race.

Before the rally began, dozens of police officers lined Dilworth Park, where the water fountains - which typically run sporadically - are running continuously.

More than 60 protesters were arrested in New York City, where police on scooters used batons to try to keep demonstrators on the sidewalks. Police arrested people who moved into traffic.

Protesters also demonstrated Wednesday in Boston, Denver, Ferguson, Houston, Seattle and Washington. 

In Philadelphia, demonstrators previously disrupted rush-hour traffic in Center City as they protested a grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot unarmed Michael Brown last summer in Ferguson.

They also have protested the killing of Brandon Tate-Brown, a 26-year-old black man fatally shot by police after being stopped in December for a traffic violation. District Attorney Seth Williams cleared the two officers involved of any wrongdoing in March.

Police said Tate-Brown reached for a loaded gun during an encounter. His mother, Tanya Brown-Dickerson, claims her son was unarmed. She has urged police to publicly release the officers' identities and video surveillance from the incident.

Brown-Dickerson filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday, seeking to force the Philadelphia Police Department to enact a series of recommendations outlined in a U.S. Department of Justice report released in March.

That report found Philadelphia police regularly shot civilians, employed undertrained officers and lacked a transparent review process for police-involved shootings.

As demonstrations spread throughout the country, Baltimore has remained active but peaceful.

A large march ended peacefully Wednesday, where 3,000 National Guard members joined police to enforce a 10 p.m. curfew.

Protesters sought answers about the death of Gray, who died after suffering spinal injuries while in police custody. Police concluded their findings on Gray's death Thursday and submitted them to prosecutors. No information is expected to be made public.

Police arrested Gray on April 12 after he fled from police in a high-crime area. He was carrying a switchblade knife and died a week later.

The Washington Post reported that a prisoner sharing a transfer van with Gray believed he was intentionally trying to injure himself. The prisoner claimed he heard Gray banging against walls but could not see him.

Reuters contributed to this report.

PhillyVoice reporter Michael Phillis contributed to this report.