Demonstrators rallying against police brutality protested for several hours and marched through Center City on Saturday, chanting and hurling insults and profanity at police, who followed behind the raucous procession by foot and car. Police say two officers and a protester suffered minor injuries after what was a peaceful protest took an aggressive turn.
At least one protester was bloodied in a skirmish around 2:30 p.m. near the statue of the late Mayor Frank L. Rizzo, who also had served as the city’s police commissioner. The statue is across the street from City Hall in front of the Municipal Services Building.
It was unclear what prompted the physical confrontation. As officers put several protesters in a police wagon, the crowd erupted and unloaded a string of profanity-laden chants at police. Four demonstrators were issued citations, and two were arrested and charged with assaulting officers, police said. The injured were treated at Hahnemann University Hospital.
One of the officers was treated for an injury to his nose, the other for minor injuries to his leg.
The protest by Philly for REAL Justice began around noon outside the Convention Center, where thousands of law enforcement officials from around the world and nation were meeting. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed the conference in the morning.
As convention attendees milled in the street, about 40 protesters carrying signs, holding banners, and wearing shirts that read “Stop killing black people” raged against police, some making obscene gestures. They were surrounded by a sea of police officers on bikes and foot.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom,” activist Megan Malachi, of Mount Airy, one of the leaders, told the protesters. “We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Known by its acronym, the Philadelphia Coalition for Racial, Economic and Legal (REAL) Justice has been in the forefront in leading some of the fieriest and most controversial marches to protest against policy brutality. Some members went face-to-face with police Saturday.
Besides an end to police brutality, the group demanded reparations, raged against the media, plus decried the crisis in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, inadequate school funding for city schools, and other issues.
Saturday’s protest was held outside meetings for the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Some convention attendees watched the protest and took photographs, while others hurried past the demonstration, declining comment.
Pointing his finger at authorities and calling out the last names emblazoned on their uniforms aloud, Philip Gregory, 21, raged against the officers, who stood stoically in the afternoon sun. “You put on a badge and a uniform, you are on the wrong side.”
The rally shut down the intersection of 12th and Arch Streets, near the Convention Center. A group of Mummers, who had been performing at Reading Terminal’s Harvest Festival, sang “When the Saints Go Marching In” as they traveled past the demonstrators on a hayride.
A group of Mummers on a hayride pass by antipolice protesters in Center City playing "When the saints go marching in." pic.twitter.com/PauUT9GKjX
— Melanie Burney (@MLBURNEY) October 21, 2017
Protesters then moved on to Market Street, with police following and blocking streets when needed. The officers were met on several corners by cheers and applause from onlookers. A folksinger played a guitar and belted out a ditty with the words cops’ lives matter. Merchants came outside from their stores to watch the protest. Tourists on a double-decker bus gawked as the demonstrators marched down the middle of the street.
When a passerby asked a police officer what the protest was about, he replied: “We hate the police.”