At Philly peace march, local issues dominate

Protesters march under the El at Kensington and Allegheny Avenues during an Interfaith Peace march in Philadelphia’s Kensington section on Aug. 19, 2017. They were protesting against gun violence and drugs. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

It was billed as the Kensington Interfaith Peace March, and that’s exactly what Saturday night’s gathering in Philadelphia turned out to be.

While thousands of people turned out for conservative rallies and counterdemonstrations against white supremacists in tense cities around the country — Dallas police stationed sharpshooters atop buildings; 27 people were arrested in Boston — no one even tried to steer the Kensington protest beyond issues that plague the neighborhood.

Camera icon DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Rianna Perez, 7, a member of the Free Church of St. John, during Saturday’s march in Kensington. 

About 75 people marched through the community, which has been ravaged by drug addiction and crime, to protest gun violence and honor those who have lost their lives to heroin and bullets. The route began and ended at the Free Church of St. John, a lay-led Episcopal mission on Emerald Street, a few blocks from the main arteries of Frankford, Kensington, and East Allegheny Avenues.

A Philadelphia police spokesman said no problems were reported.

Local faith leaders and activists spoke at nearby McPherson Square, which was littered with used needles until the city moved recently to clear out a group of homeless people and clean up the park. (A homeless community under the Emerald Street bridge has grown bigger.)

White nationalism and the removal of Confederate statues — issues that led to a series of highly criticized tweets from President Trump in the wake of a counterprotester’s death during a violent Unite the Right rally last weekend in Charlottesville, Va. — never came up at the Kensington gathering.

Nor did the controversial former Mayor Frank Rizzo.

Camera icon david Maialetti / Staff Photographer
A group pauses at McPherson Square during the peace march.

Staff writer Bob Fernandez contributed to this article.