by Eldon Graham
All across the city, Philadelphians have strong beliefs and they follow them to the end, no matter where that may take them.
South Philadelphia residents took that to heart Monday evening, and it took them on a march to City Hall and to the Frank Rizzo statue across the street. The march sparked controversy but ended in a spirit of civic unity.
Taking Our South Philadelphia Streets Back is an organization aimed keeping the streets safe for all. The “Back the Blue” rally was in support of the men and women who protect the streets every day and who put their lives on the line doing it, the police. The rally began at Broad & Oregon in Marconi Plaza. Carol Lanni, founder of TOSPSB, spoke about why she believes in giving support to police officers around the city.
“The event is a pro-police rally,” she stressed. “I believe the morale is down in the city of Philadelphia with the events happening in the area and I believe police morale needs to be boosted and to know that they are appreciated. They did a beautiful job with the DNC and that they just need to know we’re here and we appreciate them.”
Carol’s support was echoed through the community by 600 people who showed up to support the police and march down Broad Street to City Hall and then to the Frank Rizzo statue in front of the Municipal Services Building.
Carol founded TOSPSB in August 2013 in response to her son being the victim of a crime. “I started this [Facebook] page because my son was mugged. Two women were across the street in the Acme and they came over and helped him. I looked at my son and said, ‘You know what, this city is getting really bad.” Carol’s son is an asthmatic. “If he had would’ve gotten hit or punched, I could’ve been looking at my son in a coffin.” she continued. “The violence … the peace, we need to bring peace back.”
So Lanni started something. “We are taking our South Philadelphia streets back to decrease crime. If you see something, say something. I don’t want the community to be afraid to report crime cause once you’re afraid and you’re not reporting it that’s how crime increases.”
Carol’s TOSPSB Facebook page has over 22,000 followers and is still growing. The organization also has a following on twitter.
Anthony Boris, a member of TOSPSB, said, “We did this event on behalf of The Philadelphia Police Dept. and the other law-enforcement agencies to show support so that they know they are welcomed.” He continued, “It is not even about Blue Lives Matter or Black Lives Matter; all lives matter in general.”
Boris wants the police and community to come together to show support of each other.
State Rep. Maria Donatucci (D-S. Phila.) accepted her invitation to attend the rally and was pleased by the crowd of people. “Every day officers go out into the city with the sobering realization they might not come home that night, and yet they continue to willing take that risk every day to serve and protect people they don’t even know,” she said.
“Unfortunately, police have been the target of violence throughout our country recently,” she noted. “We remember the five police officers killed in Dallas last month, as well as the three officer killed about week later in Baton Rouge. These officers were doing their duty to keep their communities safe and they made the ultimate sacrifice in doing so.
“We certainly need to help bridge communications between our officers and the general public so we can understand each other better. But while we are working to achieve this goal, we must be committed to peace,” she said. Donatucci closed by encouraging the crowd to thank a police officer for their service to the community.
Midway through the rally, some Black Lives Matter demonstrators showed up to voice their opinions. They brandished signs with sayings such as “no good cops in a racist system” and “jail killer cops.” The Black Lives Matter demonstrators refused to give their names and did not say much until the crowd reacted to their presence.
The crowd did not take their signs and the interruption of their rally with enthusiasm, with one person yelling repeatedly, “Block that s___.” Some pro-police residents proceeded to block the signs held by the demonstrators. This spurred isolated arguments between marchers and protestors that lasted until the march down Broad Street began.
Police had to intervene and stand between heated individuals as the rally continued. Some members of the crowd got enthusiastic when the tune “Hit the road, Jack” was played. Some Blue Lives Matter supporters sung along, hoping that would deter the Black Lives Matter protesters from staying. It did not.
When the march began, some police supporters began knocking signs out the hands of the hands of the demonstrators. At this point, police were losing control of the situation. The biggest scuffle occurred as one Black Lives Matter demonstrator was arrested, halting the march for several minutes. One protester referred to the attendees as “wild dogs.”
Finally, the parade took off to the music of the national anthem and thunderous applause.
At City Hall, the march of people rallied around the Frank Rizzo statue in solidarity to show they support keeping the statue up. Several organizations have recently called for the statue to be taken down because of controversial history with the Philadelphia icon. TOSPSB wants it to be known that it supports the statue as former Mayor Rizzo was a Police Officer, Police Commissioner and Mayor – not to mention a South Philadelphian.
Russ Ferrante, a disc jockey for the event, read aloud “End of Watch” statements for various officers who had fallen in the line of duty to close the march.