Any time thousands of protesters pour into the streets of a city, very bad things can happen, as history has shown us time and time again. But on Thursday, Philadelphians once again proved that we know how to do it right.
People love to argue about crowd sizes, it seems, but suffice it to say there were a lot of shouting, chanting, angry people in Center City to protest Donald Trump and the Republican leaders who were holed up at the Loews Hotel for much of the day. At least 5,000.
And there were a ton of police officers. Everywhere. There were uniformed cops lined up around the sea of protesters. There were bike cops. There were, I’m sure, plenty of undercover cops.
There were so many cops that one protester told me she found it unnerving. She told me that she only saw three uniformed police officers during the big women’s march in Washington, D.C. I found that to be a pretty suspicious claim, but … I got her point. Cops galore.
But one thing there wasn’t on Thursday: problems.
According to the Philadelphia Police Department, there were zero — yes, zero — protest-related arrests on Thursday. And only one — yes, one — written citation. That was for disorderly conduct. Big whoop. That person will probably pay a small fine and be done with it.
Oh, there were a handful of “clashes” between cops and protesters.
At 13th and Market, cops grabbed a young masked guy, all clad in black. As I held my camera probably too close to the action, a couple of the cops asked me very politely to step back a bit. (I hadn’t identified myself as a member of the press and wore no press credentials, by the way.) And they spoke to the man quietly and politely as well.
In the end, they told the guy to scram and that if he wanted them to return the can of spray paint they found in his bag, he was free to go to the police station to pick it up. The cop in charge also calmly told him to tell his buds to protest all they want but that they’re going to have a problem if they insist on tagging the city. Fair enough. One anti-Trump protester told the head cop that he’d be happy to go to court as a witness on behalf if the police if the kid tried to claim he was roughed up.
And in all my conversations with friends and colleagues and all my searches through the social media feeds of folks at the protest, I found only two other anecdotes of significance, and barely that. In one, shield-assisted cops were seen pushing back on a crowd. In the other:
“I saw one police officer come out of nowhere and use his shoulder to destroy this kid who had gone through a police line,” wrote one Philadelphia man who attended the protest. “No one noticed but I thought it was excessive. The office was … easily twice the kid’s size. I thought it was a bully move and almost escalated the situation, so I was disappointed …”
We’ve never heard of a person being destroyed by a shoulder, but cool.
In the end, no broken windows. No reports of tear gassing, macing, or stun-gunning. No arrests. No videos of cops or protesters behaving badly — well, assuming you’re not offended by protesters chanting “asshole” over and over again or vagina-emblazoned posters and posters declaring “FUCK TRUMP.”
All in all, a great day for Philadelphia. Well, apart from the whole Donald-Trump-is-still-in-the-White-House business.
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