Representatives of the Black Philly Radical Collective are demanding that city leadership abolish the structures of policing and state violence endangering Black communities.
The collective, which includes groups such as Philly REAL Justice and Black Lives Matter Philly, issued 13 demands for Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council members during a press conference and rally held on Friday.
The groups are calling on city leaders to defund the police budget, stop the criminalization of Black resistance and remove all symbols of state violence such as monuments.
“Let us be crystal clear,” said Krystal Strong, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Philly. “These first three demands require immediate action from the City of Philadelphia and they are not negotiable. They represent immediate steps that the city must take to communicate its responsiveness to demands of Black Philadelphians for justice for our communities.”
She said the groups are demanding that the mayor’s originally proposed $19 million budget increase for the police department be given to the School District of Philadelphia for the removal of asbestos and lead paint from public schools.
Strong highlighted actions recently taken by police since demonstrations began in Philadelphia, such using pepper spray and tear gassing protesters on I-676 and unleashing rubber bullets on people on 52nd Street in West Philadelphia.
Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw apologized on Thursday for using teargas in the incident on I-676, calling the use of force that day “unjustifiable” and admitting that they had offered incorrect and uncorroborated explanations for why officers resorted to the tactics.
“The apology by Mayor Kenney and Commissioner Outlaw about this treatment is not acceptable and it is not accepted,” Strong said. “We demand an end to the use of tear gas, grenades, assault rifles and surveillance in our neighborhoods and at protests.”
The collective wants District Attorney Larry Krasner to drop all charges and arrests against activists and community members in relation to the recent wave of protests.
After decades of work by Philadelphia’s Black organizers and community members, Kenney finally removed the statue of former mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo. The mayor also recently announced that the city intends to “seek the removal” of the Christopher Columbus statue in South Philadelphia.
“That is not enough,” Strong said. “We demand the immediate public destruction of these white symbols of hate, destruction and violence, so that they can never be erected elsewhere.”
The collective wants the street renamed after former mayor Wilson W. Goode in West Philadelphia to be reverted back to its original name. Goode served as mayor when the police department bombed the Black liberation group MOVE in 1985.
“We demand legislation that removes all other existing monuments of state violence and ensures that no future symbols of state violence against Black, indigenous or brown people be permitted in our city,” Strong said.
The collective seeks the swift firing of “killer cops” and the abolition of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Police Advisory Committee.
“We demand an end to superficial policies that assign desk duties and administrative leave for officer-involved shootings,” said Anthony Smith of Philly Real Justice. “If a police officer murders someone, they should be immediately fired and referred to counseling.”
The collective is calling for the retirement funds of “killer cops” to be frozen during all parts of the legal process. If the officer is convicted, their pensions should be seized and transferred to victims and their families, the groups said.
Other demands include the immediate release of all medically vulnerable individuals in prison and Black political prisoners, including Mumia Abu Jamal, Major Tillery, Arthur Cetawayo Johnson, Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, Omar Askia and Joseph “Jo-Jo” Bowen.
“In this period of COVID-19, we demand that Mumia, Major, Cetawayo, Maroon, Omar, Jo-Jo, and all Black political prisoners be immediately released,” said Mike Africa Jr., a member of MOVE. “They are all seniors, members of a vulnerable population whose incarceration by any measure does not serve our communities or justice.”