Scenes From the Massive Philly Is Baltimore Protest

Young families, candidates, the Counter Terrorism unit, and some people who tried to topple the Rizzo statue.

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Also read: “Philly Shows Nation How to Protest the Right Way.”

It was a tense night in Center City, Philadelphia, for the “Philly Is Baltimore” protest, which centered around both the death of Freddie Gray, who died earlier this month in the custody of Baltimore police, and the death of Brandon Tate-Brown, who was shot and killed in a December altercation with Philadelphia police. I arrived at City Hall around 3:30 p.m. and watched the crowd slowly grow in numbers to more than a thousand. Here are some photos, videos and observations from the protest that was, for the most part, tensely peaceful.

Things at the City Hall portion of the “Philly is Baltimore” protest were civil. People were passionate but not really engaging each other in argument. One notable exception came when a woman encountered a man who dared to hold up a sign that read, “I’m holding a sign.”

A few seconds after this video ended, another woman walked up, grabbed the sign and tore it into pieces. Later, our photographer, Joshua Scott Albert, asked the man why he brought the sign, and he told him that he didn’t want to offend anyone. OK, moving on.

Apparently, the Counter Terrorism people felt like they needed to be at City Hall for the Philly is Baltimore protest, too:

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And, because Philly knows how to throw a protest, the breakdancers showed up as well:

And there were also lots of families in attendance at “Philly Is Baltimore”:

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Philadelphia marijuana activist N.A. Poe never turns down an opportunity to smoke pot at an event, and here he is with his cop puppet, just after sucking on a joint:

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Speaking of characters, also in attendance was Philly Jesus, accompanied by mayoral candidate Anthony Hardy Williams:

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And City Council-at-Large candidate Helen Gym made her presence known as well, alas without the implied endorsement of any false Messiahs:

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I got my first cameo on a police body camera, courtesy of SEPTA police chief Thomas Nestel, who seemed pretty calm:

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Some Bloods and Crips showed up, together, at Philly is Baltimore. Naturally, they didn’t want their faces photographed, but this is them from the rear. As they put it to another journalist, there were there to “keep the peace” and promised “no violence.”

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And then there was Philly socialite Kelly Boyd en route to her home at the Ritz-Carlton, yelling “peace out” and explaining that she is a “proud Republican supporting racial equality.”

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Eventually, the protest left City Hall and moved down Broad Street. As the massive group passed Sansom Street, Chris’ Jazz Cafe owner Mark DeNinno was standing out in front of his restaurant between Broad and 15th on Sansom yelling, “Free appetizers to protestors!” Alas, the crowd kept marching, turning down the gratis calamari and wings, and making a right on Locust Street.

Soon, the protestors made it up to 18th and Locust, and I ran — OK, walked quickly — down Locust to see where the line ended. When I got to Broad, there were still a lot of folks left on Broad Street, spilling around the corner:

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As night began to fall on the protest, things got a little hairier. Here’s one moment. Shortly after this, there were anecdotal reports that tear gas or pepper spray was used at some point.

And then protestors spotted a group of police standing next to the Frank Rizzo statue and the whole group moved to them.

One of the commanding officers told the cops to move away, at which point the protestors tried to take down the bronzed Frank.

After this, the crowd moved to the Four Seasons hotel. Many were pounding on the front windows, and more cop cars screamed in. The protesters were ultimately blocked from entering.

As of 11 p.m., we’d only heard about a handful of arrests. We’ll have more details as they come, and much more on this on Friday.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.