“Mothers of the Movement” and Philadelphia Coalition for REAL Justice Voice Need for Reform Inside and Outside of DNC
On Tuesday, July 26, the “Mothers of the Movement” and Philadelphia Coalition for REAL Justice separately stepped into the spotlight to share their path to a more just future. Both campaign to end the racial disparity in police violence.
Though they share goals, the differences in their methods and practices illustrate the range of beliefs and diversity of activists that believe that Black Lives Matter.
The Coalition for REAL Justice positions itself as a more radical alternative to typical liberal politics. They work to immediately dismantle the systems of white supremacy they see in American public policy.
The “Mothers of the Movement” are a group of nine mothers whose children were killed under questionable circumstance, either by police or armed citizens.
“I am an unwilling participant in this movement. I would not have signed up for this. None of us would have,” Sybrina Fulton said to the thousands at the Democratic National Convention and to the world.
The “Mothers of the Movement” actively campaign for Hillary. They are: Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother; Geneva Reed-Veal, Sandra Bland’s mother; Lucy McBath, Jordan Davis’ mother; Wanda Johnson, Oscar Grant’s mother; Cleopatra Pendleton-Cowley, Hadiya Pendleton’s mother; Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother; Annette Nance-Holt, Blair Holt’s mother, Lezley McSpadden, Mike Brown’s mother; and Maria Hamilton, Dontre Hamilton’s mother.
“Hillary Clinton has the compassion and understanding to comfort a grieving mother. She has the courage to lead the fight for common-sense gun legislation,” Fulton said. “And she has a plan to repair the divide that so often exists between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
These nine mothers have used their platform to campaign for the end of disproportionate violence against people of color, whether from the police or from armed citizens. These nine mothers have decided that Hillary Clinton is the best person to back to achieve these goals.
“Hillary Clinton isn’t afraid to say black lives matter. She isn’t afraid to sit at a table with grieving mothers and bear the full force of our anguish. She doesn’t build walls around her heart,” Lucia McBath said. “Not only did she listen to our problems, she invited us to become part of the solution.”
Earlier in the day, six miles north of the Wells Fargo, the Philadelphia Coalition for REAL (Racial, Economic and Legal) Justice held it’s Black DNC Resistance March against Police Terrorism and State Repression.
For many activists marching with REAL, neither Clinton nor Sanders are liberal enough.
From their mission statement:
“Ultimately, we recognize that a complete overhaul of the current economic and social system is essential if we are to achieve a society that benefits the common good of the people and not that of the ruling local/federal government and class.”
Starting at the rallying point of Broad and Diamond Streets in North Philadelphia, the activists marching with REAL are frustrated with the criminal justice system and the social structures that have, according to them, upheld white supremacy.
Their frustrations are legitimate: People of Color, in general, are poorer, more heavily policed and more likely to be incarcerated. They are among the generations born in the wake of Jim Crow’s America.
“It’s not my place to tell them [the “Mothers of the Movement”] they’re wrong,” Samia Thompson said. Thompson is 22 and a native of Strawberry Mansion.
“I’m just not sure that Hillary is the right choice. I don’t know that I believe that the cops will have to change,” she said. “I don’t know what would be different if I had a son murdered or a brother [murdered], so I don’t want to say they’re wrong for supporting Hillary but I want more definite, radical change.”
Thompson echoed many activists at the march: A combination of a respect for the “Mothers” and confusion or dismay that they are embracing a politician, who, by REAL’s standards is as establishment as it gets.
“I love those women and can’t imagine their pain but I think we need a more revolutionary reaction,” Jamal Erickson, 40, said. “I know it was a long time ago but I can’t forget super-predators. Which one of their sons would’ve been a super-predator?”
As the march moved from North Philly to Center City, law enforcement at City Hall waited patiently as the marchers made their way down Broad slower than expected. One supervising officer said the group was at about 500 people just below Cecil B. Moore and gaining marchers at every block. A group protesting capitalism on the South side of City Hall was expected to join the group for the duration of the march to Broad and Pattison.
Activists handed out free revolutionary newspapers, gun-control groups tried to gather signatures, and an organized, permitted rally for mental health proceeded on Dilworth Plaza. Pick-up trucks decorated in Bernie Sanders paraphernalia circled the building and individual protesters prepared signs. All the while an ominous, flag-bearing cloud of flashing blue and red lights slowing grew on Broad to the North. Passersby paused to look, officers began to gather in greater numbers, and folks working nearby began packing up.
The chants and songs could be heard with clarity as the group crossed Cherry Street. “Don’t vote for Hillary, She’s killing black people.” The chant were led via megaphone from the back of a white pickup truck.
These weren’t Bernie’s or Trump’s people though: These folks wanted to, “Indict the whole damn system.” They weren’t even for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. They touted the Moorehead-Lilly ticket of the Worker’s World Party.
As the group came around City hall a group of officers lined up on bikes to block off access to Market East and keep the crowd on target to South Broad. But the protesters stopped for a long while. A small contingent of protesters used chalk to scrawl a message on the asphalt reading: “F#@$ the police” with an arrow pointing to the line.
The crowd started chanting about FOX News and getting them out. Apparently Geraldo Rivera had been doused with water while interviewing someone.
Things then calmed down somewhat. Police Commissioner Richard Ross chatted with reporters and even allowed citizens to take their picture with him. Even former Mayor John Street made a cameo. The police, in large numbers, again waited patiently for the protesters to begin marching again.
When they finally did, the officers just rolled along the sides on their bikes while more followed the crowd. A PPD helicopter buzzed overhead, flying back and forth constantly. Every street on South Broad had an officer directing traffic, which was heavy due to rush hour. The crowd chanted, “Who’s streets? Our streets!”
At some corners citizen police supporters engaged the protesters. While the language would sometimes become offensive neither side became violent.
As the marchers moved, traffic on the side streets stalled and some businesses scrambled to lock their doors. Others stayed open but put security and extra employees up front.
The group kept pace at about one-mile per hour, stopping for rest and song singing. Some chants were like thing you’d hear in the 1960s, “No justice, no peace.” Others and bit more sinister, “Thank you, Dallas.”
Residents and business owners came outside and sat on their steps — sometimes with dogs. An employee of a pizza shop worried about her car. The police took charge of the intersections trying to clear cars before the group arrived.
Things started to get a testy around Snyder Ave. One marcher, a white male carrying an upside down American flag, started to test the line of bike cops, who were walking their bikes not riding them. At one point an officer shoved the protester as they were next to a parked car. Another officer told the protester to, “Stop acting like a knucklehead.”
Then a man set up shop in his open convertible Chevy Camaro holding a “Blue Lives Matter” sign and a “Hillary” sign. Some in the crowd yelled at him, but he held his ground. One marcher with jet black hair in a spiky mohawk, a wearing a “Hammer and Sickle” t-shirt engaged him further. The Camaro man said “Dude, this is South Philly, we respect our cops.”
At Oregon the group stopped. Drums played and smoke started to billow from the traffic island. The protesters set an American flag on fire.
Another block down at Bigler, a mini-counter protest ensued. A woman holding a child started chanting, “Give the police space.” Other residents held their ground at the curb and officers pinched the path of the protesters briefly.
Things started to get crazy again under the I-76 overpass. According to one cop on the scene an even larger group was heading North on Broad and when the two met there was raucous a cheer.
The chant of “Black lives matter” echoed under the roadway also with the beat of drums and other noise-making materials.
At Packer a dozen police cars turned their sirens on as they tried to back out but were surrounded by protesters.
As the group crossed Packer the excitement built. The marchers quickly made their way to the Secret Service fencing, where two presidential candidates were speaking. No not Clinton and Trump: Instead, it was Jill Stein and Vermin Supreme who spoke up. Stein delivered a policy message to a crush of people in her face. Vermin, wearing a boot on his head, chatted with Spirit News and other reporters off to the side. He gave his view of the Philadelphia Police department’s handling of the march.
“Let’s just compare it to Cleveland, it’s a lot less tense. I think the lack of riot gear certainly sets a tone. I think the fact that they’re in their blues in a very nice thing … they don’t have their pepper spray … pointed at us. I feel very relaxed,” he said.
Supreme explained that people are more likely to violent when the cops are militarized, “People take offense to that type of thing. I’m personally offended when the occupation forces that are protecting me are looking like they’re ready for a rumble … The fact that the Philadelphia Police Department made it all in-house [with the exception of State Police]” That said, he added, “I’m sure … they are ready if shit goes down but they’ve given people the benefit of the doubt that it’s not going down.”
A protester then walked up and asked the cops if they wanted to play volleyball over the fence. Supreme grabbed a bullhorn and asked the cops as well. The officers’ response (or lack thereof) quashed any thoughts of Blues vs Grunge. We doubt anyone’ll see this matchup in Rio next week either.
Despite Supreme’s well articulated assessment of the police, several protesters donned gas masks and began burning signs. When some journalists started filming, they were attacked by the masked men. The crowd started chanting, “Don’t be trolled.”
Eventually the protesters — a diverse group in not just race, creed, and background, but also in reasons for being there — realized that the march was over. Bernie’s supporters, perhaps wanting respect from someone having not gotten it from the DNC, tried to get other protesters to move away from the Phillies parking lot gate so Bernie’s delegates could join a planned vigil in FDR. The other protesters shouted them away and fortified their blockade at the gate.
According to Philadelphia Police, more than eight groups, with an estimated 5000 people overall, participated in last Tuesday’s demonstrations.