Last January, during the Mummer’s Parade – a Philadelphia tradition that over the years has offended and excluded people of color but appears to be making inroads, albeit slowly, towards diversity – activists with Black Lives Matter Pennsylvania and the Philly Coalition for R.E.A.L Justice interfered with the pomp-and-circumstances, as it began to precede down Broad Street in Center City, in order to send a message to observers and participants alike that their racism is unacceptable and archaic, and to demand that the City of Philadelphia cease their financial support of an event where white faces can be seen painted black and brown to heighten the spectacle.
Two of the Black activists who last year stepped off the sidewalk, bypassed the guardrails, and entered the street, were arrested by police and charged with interference of a permitted event; the charges were later dropped.
This January, during the MLK D.A.R.E March – an interfaith, multi-racial occurrence first organized and executed in 2015, which that year attracted over 5,000 people – Philly Jesus, a personality portrayed by former drug addict Mr. Michael Grant, made an appearance and caused a disturbance. Mr. Grant, like the activists who at the onset of 2016 appeared at the Mummer’s Parade, was an uninvited guest who attempted to strut ahead of the procession and whose presence was loudly denounced.
Unlike the Black activists, however, Mr. Grant – who stood in front of a diverse group of respected clergy and referred to himself as “the father” and “the light of the world” – was not arrested, removed or even approached by Philadelphia police officers, though a Philly.com news report wrongly states the opposite. His agitation was mitigated only by the peaceful participants – at one point at least five people formed a circle around him to attempt to contain the absurdity but Mr. Grant quickly broke through the human barricade – of the gathering meant to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At the Mummer’s Parade, a largely non-black event, the police treated the space with a sort of reverence and tolerated no disturbance; whereas at Monday’s march, they were indifferent to provocation from a White man, and the disparate treatment didn’t go unnoticed.
The loudest critic of the police’s indifference was Mr. Asa Khalif of Black Lives Matter Pennsylvania, who was arrested and charged last January. Mr. Khalif in a bullhorn maligned both Mr. Grant, calling him a homophobe, and the officers who walked by unconcerned at the disturbance.
We were arrested for doing the same thing he’s doing, shouted Mr. Khalif, whose cousin in 2014 was killed by a white policeman while unarmed and fleeing, to officers.
A member of the Philadelphia Police Department told me on Monday that Mr. Grant wasn’t removed because he hadn’t been violent or touched anyone, and was marching along the flow of bodies; he had, according to law enforcement, a right to be there. However, it isn’t true that Mr. Grant hadn’t touched anyone.
In fact, he pushed by several people, including a woman walking with her kids, to arrive at the front-line; and every time the participants marched around him, leaving him in the back, he repeated his hostile behavior to ascend again to the front.
“Someone dropped the ball on yesterday,” Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, one of the organizers of the MLK D.A.R.E march, said of the police in a statement emailed exclusively to Techbook Online. “Members of our coalition made attempts to get police involvement to move Mr. Grant, letting them know he was unwanted and that he was being physical, but unfortunately they did not intervene.”
Rev. Tyler, who acknowledged his working relationship with many of the cops who covered Monday’s march, said he didn’t appreciate the double-standard.
“When Black Lives Matter activists stepped in front of the Mummer’s Parade they were promptly arrested. This lack of consistency only adds to the larger perception that there is a double-standard in the application of the law when it comes to black and white,” wrote the reverend.
Techbook Online this morning reached out to PPD for a statement, but have yet to hear back.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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Photos courtesy of the author.