Protests in Philadelphia Focus on Counting Votes, Walter Wallace Jr. Shooting


All eyes are on Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia in particular. Campaign staffers and supporters have converged in the city as election officials work to count mail-in ballots that could tip the election to Donald Trump or Joe Biden.

On a warm and eerily quiet Wednesday evening, protesters flooded Philadelphia’s streets, surrounding the iconic City Hall plaza. They weren’t alone: surrounding the protesters, who had been on the ground since just after midday, were hundreds of police officers, on foot and on bikes. The National Guard are also in the city, called in following the protests in response to the killing of Walter Wallace Jr., a Black Philadelphia resident and father of nine who was shot 14 times and killed by police who were called while Wallace Jr. was having a mental health episode.

Wednesday’s protests were in part a response to Trump’s attempted premature declaration of victory in Pennsylvania, but they were intimately linked to the outcry over Wallace Jr.’s death. Philadelphia officials and the police department released body camera footage of his shooting as well as the names of the officers involved.

“We know our democracy is on the line. What we know is that we, Black people, have the power to see the changes that we want to see in this city, in this state, and in our country. We the people have the power to make sure, regardless of what happens, we’re gonna continue to take the streets, we’re gonna continue to fight,” said City Councilmember at Large Kendra Brooks, speaking at the Count Every Vote rally. Brooks was the first Working Families Party candidate ever elected to Philadelphia City Council last year, and has helped lead the body’s work this session to address police brutality. Just last week, City Council introduced a bill aiming to combat racial profiling in police vehicle stops for minor infractions.

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On the other side of City Hall, organizers with the Philly Black Radical Collective condemned the city’s handling of Wallace Jr.’s death. “In Philadelphia and throughout the country, we are witnessing the escalation of aggressive disenfranchisement and suppression of the Black community,” said Krystal Strong of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Philly. “Through the police occupation of our communities, through the criminalization of our resistance — free Ant — through the recent election.”

“Free Ant” is in reference to Philadelphia high school teacher Anthony Smith, an organizer with Philly for REAL Justice, who, on October 29, was arrested on a federal arson charge of burning a police vehicle during this summer’s BLM uprisings. Organizers in Philly say the charges are a political “fabrication.” His indictment contained minimal details regarding his alleged involvement. Strong continued, saying, “As long as the war on our communities continues, guess what? We will fight for justice and freedom and work to build the world that we want to see.”

The two protests, initially held on opposite sides of City Hall, converged and began to march towards the home of Mayor Jim Kenney, merging the call to #CountEveryVote and for justice for Black lives in Philadelphia into one interconnected movement.

Teen Vogue spoke to protesters in the street about what brought them out. “It was our first year to vote, so it was really important to us that we made sure that our votes were heard and our votes were counted, because Donald Trump’s trying to corrupt the whole system,” said Caroline, 19, a student at nearby Temple University, out marching with friends Ian, 19, and Julia, 19.



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