Call it the Summit on Spring Garden, an effort at local diplomacy that went surprisingly well, according to Larry Krasner, the Democratic nominee for district attorney in Philadelphia, and John McNesby, who heads the union representing city police officers.
U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, chairman of the Democratic City Committee, brokered the meeting Wednesday morning at party headquarters on Spring Garden Street to address concerns from the union about anti-police chants that broke out two weeks ago during Krasner’s primary election night victory party.
“We cleared up some misconceptions,” McNesby, president of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, said after the meeting. “It turned out to be more productive than I expected.”
Krasner said McNesby offered to let him address the union and seek its endorsement in the Nov. 7 general election.
“I thought it was positive, constructive, and there were a lot of good words,” said Krasner, who declined to discuss more specifics about the meeting.
Brady called the diplomatic outreach part of his job as party chairman.
“I’ve been doing this for years,” he said. “The hardest part of my job is, after primaries, family squabbles.”
Krasner, a defense attorney for 30 years, is best known for taking on civil rights cases like those of protesters arrested at political conventions, activists detained after Occupy Philly, and members of the group Black Lives Matter.
Some people gathered for Krasner’s May 16 victory party chanted a profanity-laced message for the FOP and the phrase, “No good cop in a racist system.”
Krasner’s campaign staff moved quickly to squelch that talk. But news reports set off an FOP firestorm that soon spread to statewide politics.
McNesby sent Krasner a letter last Wednesday, saying the FOP was receiving “an increasing number of calls” from active police officers and “the family members of our slain officers.”
“The commonly voiced perception is that you intend to actively support and promote potentially violent police hate groups in Philadelphia,” wrote McNesby, while urging Krasner to “publicly condemn the tactics of these hate groups and publicly disavow them as your supporters.”
The controversy has simmered for two weeks.
One day after the primary, McNesby called Krasner’s supporters “the parasites of the city.”
Krasner initially shrugged off the criticism, saying he was “a great believer in free speech” even when he does not “agree with everything that is said.”
McNesby, in his letter last week, said that “glib response” was alarming to the union.
During the primary campaign, Krasner often addressed potential police concerns about his serving as district attorney by asserting that he, like good officers, simply does not like bad officers.
The Pennsylvania Republican Party seized on the victory party chants, citing them in emails to supporters asking for political donations. Those emails said: “In nominating Larry Krasner for district attorney, Philadelphia Democrats have selected a left-wing, anti-law-enforcement radical who would make Philadelphia streets more dangerous.”
One person not mentioned in those emails was Beth Grossman, the 21-year veteran city prosecutor who was the only Republican candidate for district attorney in the primary. Val DiGiorgio, chairman of the state Republican Party, said the GOP is firmly behind Grossman’s candidacy.
McNesby on Wednesday said Grossman will also have a shot at his union’s endorsement.
“He asked for a fair shot,” McNesby said of Krasner. “I explained that our members are going to ask some tough questions. He was OK with that.”