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Outside DNC, Protesters Call For Change And Political Action On Police Brutality05:09
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Demonstrators marched down Broad Street in Philadelphia to protest police brutality. With the Democratic National Convention underway, protesters say politicians need to do more to help minority communities. (Zeninjor Enwemeka/WBUR)
Demonstrators marched down Broad Street in Philadelphia to protest police brutality. With the Democratic National Convention underway, protesters say politicians need to do more to help minority communities. (Zeninjor Enwemeka/WBUR)
This article is more than 5 years old.

PHILADELPHIA — As delegates and politicians funneled into the air-conditioned arena in South Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention Tuesday, demonstrators gathered under the hot sun north of downtown and began to march.

"What do we want? Justice! If we don’t get it: Shut it down! If we don’t get it: Shut. It. Down!” the protesters chanted as they marched toward the center of Philadelphia.

The crowd was protesting against police brutality, and what they see as a lack of political action on issues affecting black communities — particularly from Democrats.

They carried flags and various signs. The group included local residents and people from other states, such as Massachusetts. There were members of Black Lives Matter and other organizations.

Among the protesters was Danny Keating, a 32-year-old steelworker from Lowell.

"The fight for black liberation is a fight for all of us," Keating said as he waved a large red flag with the words "Socialist Alternative," a group he's a part of. "I mean no one’s going to get free in America until we fight for black people. Racial divisions are one of the key divisions they use to keep working people divided."

Keating, who is white, came to Philly for the DNC to protest. He’s a socialist and said Democrats aren’t fighting hard enough for the interests of poor people.

"I’m not hearing anything about saving our social safety net that’s been destroyed since 2008 because the bankers destroyed our economy," Keating said. "They’re not saying we need to hold them accountable. They’re saying you need to tighten your belts. We all need to make sacrifices."

Keating was just as critical of Bernie Sanders, and he wasn’t the only one. Michael Wilson of Philadelphia, who is black, said both Clinton and Sanders took too long to embrace the Black Lives Matter movement.

"It's really important that we get our respect," Wilson said. "Not just for police killings, but we have a lot of other issues that are very important to the black community. Neither one of them are speaking very much to incarceration and decarceration. I mean the Clintons, they invented mass incarceration of the black community with the crime bill in the '90s."

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The protesters aren’t happy with Republicans either. In fact, Wilson said the black community isn’t expecting anything from a Donald Trump presidency. But in a way that could galvanize the fight for change, he said.

"And that's what we need," Wilson said. "We don't need to be lulled to sleep anymore by the Democrats, who are basically, for the lack of a better word, pimping the black and the brown communities."

Many in the crowd were dissatisfied with what they see as a lot of talk, with little action, particularly here at the convention.

“I figure if someone does something wrong, you go to them with your trouble, you know?” said 22-year-old Maxwell Robins. He drove from Boston to register his complaint in person.

“The Democratic party is the dangerous one, because they have the mask of political correctness, yet everything they say and everything they do are completely separate entities,” Robins said.

Robins didn’t want to get into specifics about how he feels the Democratic party is letting down black and poor communities.

For others, the list was long — and frustratingly old. Protest organizer Kamau Mshale, of the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice, said blacks in Philadelphia have a long history of disappointment with Democrats.

"The state of black people in America is very rough," Kamau Mshale says. (Zeninjor Enwemeka/WBUR)
"The state of black people in America is very rough," Kamau Mshale says. (Zeninjor Enwemeka/WBUR)

"In Philadelphia, there was a Democrat who was mayor when they dropped the bomb on a residential community — when they dropped the bomb on MOVE," Mshale said. "In Philadelphia, there was a Democrat who ushered in the idea of stop-and-frisk wholesale into our communities.”

Mshale said black Americans face injustices every day.

"I think a lot of times when we think of America, we think of America as this land of milk and honey where anything is possible and everyone can do everything," he said. "But then when you break it down to the communities and you see black people not doing as much, and the instinct is to blame black people, not the systems that keep them from doing as much, right?"

Those systems are exactly what these protesters want fixed. For many, that means they’ll give their vote to a third party candidate in November. And for others, it means they’ll continue raising their voices outside the political arena to push for change in their communities.

Here are more scenes from the protest:

Protesters in Philadelphia carry a red, white and blue casket labeled "DNC" through the streets. (Zeninjor Enwemeka/WBUR)
Protesters in Philadelphia carry a red, white and blue casket labeled "DNC" through the streets. (Zeninjor Enwemeka/WBUR)
Police on hand for the Black Lives Matter protest in Philadelphia on Tuesday. (Zeninjor Enwemeka/WBUR)
Police on hand for the Black Lives Matter protest in Philadelphia on Tuesday. (Zeninjor Enwemeka/WBUR)
Protesters march through Philadelphia on Tuesday. (Zeninjor Enwemeka/WBUR)
Protesters march through Philadelphia on Tuesday. (Zeninjor Enwemeka/WBUR)
(Zeninjor Enwemeka/WBUR)
(Zeninjor Enwemeka/WBUR)

This segment aired on July 27, 2016.

Related:

Zeninjor Enwemeka Twitter Senior Business Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a senior business reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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