Philly BLM #AltonSterling Sit-Down (7-6-16)

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Philly BLM activists marching from Macy’s, July 6.

Black Lives Matter moved its way up to national attention again following the police murder of black man Alton Sterling (37 years old) in Louisiana. He was shot by police for supposedly selling CD’s, which ghoulishly resembled the choke-hold murder of Eric Garner by police in NYC for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.  Sterling was killed July 5, 2016, the day after the 4th of July, symbolizing the lack of freedom granted to the black community in the 21st century.  The Justice Department opened up a civil rights investigation into the case. In Louisiana, just a month before Sterling was gunned down, a new Democratic governor signed a “Blue Lives Matter” who makes it the first state in the nation to make killing a police officer a “hate crime.”

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Police trying to stop activists from reaching highway.

According to the New York Times, #AltonSterling began trending on Twitter on the evening of July 5.  Protests emerged in Louisiana’s capital on the evening of July 5. On July 6 a vigil of several hundred people outside the storefront was held where Sterling was killed, while a mural of Sterling was painted along the store’s wall.  In addition to the Louisiana protests, a few BLM demonstrations were held July 6 across the nation. “From Ferguson, Missouri, to Philadelphia,” wrote CNN on July 6, “people turned out” to mourn the loss of another black life to police brutality.

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On July 6, Philadelphia hosted a BLM rally to denounce police brutality and show support for the black community in Louisiana. Philadelphia is one of the leading cities organizing protests for BLM, thanks mainly to the organization Philly Coalition for REAL Justice, which has protested the police murders of Brandon Tate Brown, Jerame Reid, Freddie Gray and many others.  At 6:00 P.M. on July 6, over a hundred activists gathered at Macy’s (1300 Market St.) in Center City.  The rally, hosted by individuals from Coalition for REAL Justice, was called: “Alton Sterling Philly Response #ShutShitDown.”

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massive Philly sit-down

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Philly sit-down.

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Like they had done in the past, the BLM leaders “occupied” the busy Center City streets by marching without permits for over an hour, and shutting down any street they pleased.  Philly Police reacted like they usually do as well: Keep traffic moving with strict enforcement, but also with a degree of politeness.  Hundreds of cops on bikes surrounded the march from both sides and from behind.  Philly.com reported that SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel tweeted the entire event. “Protest headed WB on Walnut from 12th. Peaceful expression of the 1st Amendment occurring in Philadelphia,” Nextel tweeted.

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Asa being arrested in Philly.

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Reverend Nicolas O’Rourke stated: “We have a tendency to turn our eyes and be desensitized to the issues going on.” CBS quoted him saying: “As a result, we use traditional practices of coming out standing in solidarity, lifting our voices, putting our feet to the pavement to actually make sure that it’s clear that people of color are enraged and they are not standing for it any longer.”  Rennie Robinson emotionally said, “It’s just enough. This is enough. What do we do at this point now? They’re killing us,” she said.

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Photo by NBC.

After nearly an hour of marching, we reached the off-ramp from highway I-676 onto 15th Street and were able to make our way down part of the ramp, while others climbed the barrier and blocked the on-ramp from 16th Street. According to Philly NBC 10 the sit-down was impacted the system because busy I-676 cuts through downtown Philly, connecting commuters to I-76 & I-95.  The police made a line with their bikes and blocked us from moving any further on highway I-676.  Nearly a hundred of us responded by performing nonviolent sit-downs on both sides of the middle barrier.

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Beginning the sit-down, July 6.

After about 45 minutes of being on the highway, police began preparing for arrests by calling half-a-dozen police vans to the site.  About 11 persons volunteered to get arrested and sat in a straight line in front of the cops, while the remaining demonstrators watched from the other side of the highway barrier or from the grass. They were given three warnings before arrests started. Some of those arrested cooperated with the police by walking to the vans, while others resisted by linking arms and dragging their feet.

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After the arrests several dozen demonstrators marched to the police jail where the activists were held.  Apparently those arrested were cited with “obstructing a highway,” but all of them were released from jail that night. The highway sit-down gained significant press attention, especially since so few cities have launched solidarity protests. MyJoyOnline.com  wrote about the Louisiana protests, and the July 6 “unrest in Philadelphia where about 75 people blocked a busy road.”  CBS on July 7 predicted that the unrest in BLM could expand in Philly by the time of the DNC.

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Philly.com (July 6)

NBC (July 6)

CNN (July 6)

Philly CBS (July 6)

Philly Voice  (July 6)

Fox 29 News  (July 6)

WGNO-ABC (July 6)

Morning Call (July 6)

WBRZ-2 (July 6)

Philly CBS (July 7)

Democracy Now (July 7)

BBC News (July 7)

Philly Metro (July 7)

ABC (July 7)

ABC-News (July 7)

MyJoyOnline.com (July 7)

Atlanta Daily World (July 7)

Express (July 7)

Stuff (July 7)

WBRZ-2 (July 7)

ITV News (July 7)

Blouin News (July 7)

 

 

 

 

 

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