A newly uttered statement from the Police Commissioner of Philadelphia was used against him in a protest staged outside a television station.
The plan was never to step up onto the property of Fox 29’s television studios in Old City during their popular morning broadcast and press a sign, which read “Black Lives Matter,” onto the window, making the act of civil disobedience uber-visible to a massive viewing audience.
The original idea, as carried out by the roughly ten activists affiliated with the Philly REAL Justice Coalition, was to just line the wall outside the studio, make noise, raise signs and eventually take to the streets, all of which would’ve been captured, albeit less dramatic, live on air, because the street is the backdrop for the live broadcast.
But one coalition member, Mr. Asa Khalif, who’s cousin’s murder was the reason for the protest, diverted slightly from the group and ensured his visibility to station employees and viewers, which quickly attracted a security guard who, like the one two weeks ago when Mr. Khalif and another coalition members occupied the lobby of the District Attorney’s office, was unsuccessful in getting the grieving activist to retreat.
The defiance wasn’t meant to upstage his comrades, but rather oblige his ancestors – mainly his cousin, Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown, who was killed by a Philadelphia police officer on December 15th, 2014, during a traffic stop.
“I feel Brandon all around me,” Mr. Khalif texted me minutes after he and others in the coalition finished halting the rush hour traffic headed towards Center City Philadelphia.
In part, it’s the spirit of Mr. Tate-Brown, age 26 when murdered while fleeing, that fills Mr. Khalif with the courage to do things that others think twice about.
The other contributing factor to Mr. Khalif’s fearlessness is his experience in the Baltimore uprising that ensued following Mr. Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody.
“Baltimore changed me,” he remarked, in an exclusive interview with Techbook Online, following the morning protest.
Mr. Khalif, and members of the coalition were arrested and jailed by Baltimore police after defying the curfew.
“We sat in a jail cell for twenty-four hours,” he said, informing me that that experience also impacted, for the better, the coalition. “Nobody was the same when we came back from Baltimore.”
The coalition, says Mr. Khalif, is more focused today than ever before and new voices are emerging and finding their range.
During the morning protest, which quickly attracted spectators – a handful of which were on scene because a bus, forced to halt, emptied itself – two seasoned and strong voices, Ms. Erica Mines and Ms. Megan Malachi, both black women, repeated the newly uttered words of Philadelphia Police Commissioner, Mr. Charles Ramsey: “If you pull over someone for a traffic violation, just write the friggin’ ticket.”
Those words were said by Mr. Charles Ramsey, who co-chairs Mr. Barack Obama’s President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, to the Philadelphia Daily News in response to the officer involved shooting death of Mr. Sam DuBose in Cincinnati.
“If he really believed those words, he would push to have the criminal investigation of Brandon Tate-Brown reopen,” said Mr. Khalif, who referred the police commissioner as a hypocrite, but said his remarks “give legitimacy” to the argument of how the traffic stop of Mr. Tate-Brown and the following investigation was mishandled.
The narrative of Mr. Tate-Brown’s death was always, until Mr. Ramsey corrected the record, that he had broke away from a cop’s grip, after a struggle ensured during a traffic stop, and was reaching into the passenger side of his car to retrieve a gun that was allegedly spotted when the stop commenced, though never secured by officers.
As it turns out, Mr. Tate-Brown wasn’t reaching for a gun when he was killed nor was he in finger length of his passenger side car door. When shot, Mr. Tate-Brown was actually at the trunk area with his back towards Mr. Nicholas Carreli, the shooter who claims he didn’t have a chance to use his Taser on Mr. Tate-Brown, but testified that when the now deceased ran from him, he stepped back in order to get a good shot.
“The day the officer lied on the report, everything became suspect. It’s like someone put sh*t in your soup. It could be the best soup in the world, but its got sh*t in it and you can’t eat any of it,” Mr. Khalif said.
The coalition is avid in their demands. They want Mr. Tate-Brown’s killer pulled off the street so he can face justice and they want the criminal investigation reopen.
Aware of his and the coalition’s critics – among them, I’m sure, are those who are late to work due to their protesting – Mr. Khalif said their assertiveness doesn’t stop with protesting and a more focused, adversarial response directed towards lawmakers is impending.
If an outburst of Mr. Khalif was any clue, The Philadelphia City Council may be the next target.
“Fuck you (City Council President) Darrell Clarke, you don’t run this sh*t, the people do,” he shouted.
Thus far, the local movement has yet to really impact local politics, but that will soon change, said Mr. Khalif, who agreed with Ms. Hillary Clinton when she told #BlackLivesMatter activists they should focus more on changing laws than hearts.
“We have to go where the politicians will see us. We need to be able to have power and make puppets we elected follow our demands,” he said, nothing that President Lyndon B. Johnson didn’t have a change of heart when he signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but was pressured into it by outside agitators, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At this point, after more than eight months of demanding justice for his cousin, Mr. Khalif – and it seems the coalition, too – is in overdrive and consumed with a level determination and defiance rarely seen on the streets of Philadelphia.
“The fear is gone,” said Mr. Khalif, “We have nothing to lose but my chains.”
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