The Philadelphia Police Commissioner was giving a talk inside Eastern State Penitentiary when he was interrupted by protesters who pledged to haunt him.
There was a level of excitement and awe among many who walked through a long hall of a now closed prison whose interior rivals its exterior in gothic-chic.
Visitors to the Eastern State Penitentiary, which during the fall serves as one of the nation’s most celebrated haunted houses, gawked at the cell which once housed famous gangster, Mr. Al Capone, before heading into a large room cooled only by windows and fans.
The spectators were gathered to hear from a celebrity-of-sorts: Mr. Charles Ramsey, the Philadelphia Police Commissioner who was picked by President Barack Obama, in the wake of the uprising in Ferguson, to co-chair a task force on 21st Century Policing.
As Mr. Ramsey—who said he and his colleagues had 70 days to return recommendations to the President, not 90 days as the media reported—began to explain why he disagreed with a recommendation on Tasers, protesters affiliated with the Philly REAL Justice Coalition interrupted him mid-sentence to remind the police commissioner of his own words.
Ms. Erica Mines, a black woman, led off the “mic-check.”
“If you pull someone over for a traffic violation, just write the friggin’ ticket, per Charles Ramsey,” she said, to which at least 10 activists echoed and Mr. Ramsey agreed.
Ms. Mines, who with some of the same activists present at this event halted morning rush hour traffic in Center City Philadelphia on two separate occasions within the last month, went to say—and be echoed—“justice for Brandon Tate-Brown; justice for Tyree Carroll; indict, convict, Nicholas Carrelli and Heng Deng.”
Mr. Tate-Brown, while unarmed and fleeing, was shot and killed by Mr. Carelli, a rookie Philadelphia police officer, during a traffic stop on December 15th, 2014. Mr. Carroll was violently arrested by several Philadelphia police officers a few months ago—in both cases there was an alleged struggle.
Mr. Tate-Brown’s case, in particular, has become—for many in Philadelphia’s predominately black neighborhoods—an impediment to improving police and community relations.
Mr. Asa Khalif, a cousin to Mr. Tate-Brown and his family, has told me on several occasions that until this case is resolved, he doesn’t want to hear sh*t about being friendly or cordial with “the pigs.”
For so long, the public was led to believe that Mr. Tate-Brown, age 26 when murdered, was reaching into his car for a gun after breaking free from Officers Carrelli and Deng. Officer Carrelli, in fear of losing his life, shot once at Mr. Tate-Brown and ended his.
The police commissioner, however, later clarified that the original narrative was false, and that Mr. Tate-Brown wasn’t reaching for a gun, but instead was simply fleeing, resisting arrest at best.
But this admission isn’t enough to push the District Attorney into re-opening the criminal investigation into the fatal shooting death of Mr. Tate-Brown, nor has it prompted Mr. Ramsey, who started the evening off by talking about building trust and meaningful relationships with communities, to remove Mr. Carrelli from patrolling the streets until another investigation is conducted.
Ms. Megan Malachi, a black woman whose been demanding justice for Mr. Tate-Brown since the story broke, told Mr. Ramsey, who stood feet away, that “We will be everywhere you are.”
Ms. Malachi made the same promise to Seth Williams, who wasn’t present.
Mr. Ramsey was forced to walk through the loud protesters to exit the room, and the protesters followed him, continuing to chant.
Mr. Ramsey was guided into a room, which protester tried to enter, but was met with resistance from an officer – and an unidentified man – who leveraged their weight against the door.
The protesters seemed happy with themselves, as the goal for tonight was simply to “shut it down.”
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Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™