Days afterthe protests against Trump in Philadelphia, some of the city’s activists say they’ve been experiencing increased police scrutiny.
Members ofPhilly Antifaand the Up Against the Law Legal Collective said they were surprised to find large numbers of police officers congregatingoutsideThe Wooden Shoe, an anarchist bookstore on South Street, during a Jan. 28 public event.
According to the groups, police had previously urged them to cancel the event, a talk by local writerMatthew Lyons, who studies the “alt-right.”
“I arrived about fifteen minutes before start time and saw a number of police outside near the bookstore,” Lyons said. “They did not interfere with the event directly but stayed in the area. Several people told me later that they felt intimidated by the police presence and stayed away or came late.”
Organizers of the event, which reportedly packed the bookstore at South and 7th streets, said they were being unfairly targeted.
“This is harassment, plain and simple, and an attempt to chill free speech and anti-fascist organizing,”said Sean Damon, a member of Up Against the Law. The organization is a collective of activists and lawyers that were born out of the Occupy movement, according to the group’s website.
Antifa, an antifascist group,wrote online that the “large and hostile police presence” appeared a day after police officers were asking into the group’s involvement in an anti-Donald Trumpprotest during which three police cars were vandalized.
Each vehicle was tagged around 7:15 p.m. on Jan. 26 with“a black painted line through the police emblem on the driver’s side door panels” just after a large group of protesters passed the cars near 13th and Arch streets, a police report stated.
The activists claim police stopped by the bookstore a day earlier and urged them to cancel the talk. Up Against the Law wrote that the police “alleged that Philly Antifa may have been involved in a protest at which vandalism occurred.”
“The police made nonsense claims that they feared the presence of antifascists would result in street conflict, and made accusations about Antifa’s involvement with recent protest actions,” Antifa wrote. “We want to reiterate:Philadelphia Police tried to stop this event.”
Police denied anyattempts to shut down the event or violate Antifa’s rights.
“The PPD does not ‘gather in numbers’ outside of bookstores to intimidate anyone,” policespokesman Lt. John Stanford said. “If officers are present at any location, it usually is because someone has called us for service or we have information regarding an incident or problem.”
Stanford didn’t comment on questions about the vandalism investigation.
“Our record speaks for itself as to our response to protests and events,” he said. “We welcome the expression of First Amendment rights, but we also have the responsibility to maintain order and peace for all.”