Three days after thousands marched through Center City in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., a lead organizer considered what it accomplished.
Rev. Mark Tyler, of the Mother Bethel A.M.E church and a march organizer, said Wednesday he felt the protest “Restored hope that there is something that we can do about these issues.”
But did it make a difference?
“It was very noticeable that there were no elected officials invited to speak,” Tyler said. “And that was not a snub against the elected officials, but we also recognize that there is a time and a place where the community really needs to come together and say back to electeds: ‘This is what we put you in office for.'”
The estimated 2,000-person protest, which snaked through Center City monday afternoon, intended to reclaim Martin Luther King Day not as a holiday, but as a day of remembrance.
Protesters intended to channel the spirit of Dr. King and call for what still eludes not only African Americans but impoverished and marginalized citizens of every race: a proper education, a living wage, and to live free of prejudice and discrimination.
“I think the march demonstrated that there is a groundswell of people who have gotten into a place where they are no longer content with things the way they are and that we really expect something more than just excuses,” Tyler said.
Organizers said the protest was fueled by the recent deaths in Ferguson and Staten Island and the subsequent protests. The rally demanded the country live up to what one organizer called the unfulfilled promises of the framers of American democracy.
Tyler reflected three days after on how the march will have a lasting impact beyond just that one day.
“We never viewed the march as an end to itself, but we have always talked about the march as a means to an end,” Tyler said. “So, the march itself can really be viewed as a commencement, it’s a kick off.”
Tyler said community activists are beginning to strategize on how to accomplish the demands set forth on Monday, which include bringing an end to “Stop and Frisk” and improve community policing.
Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan said he thought the march “Was a great day for Philadelphia.”
“Thousands marched through Center City making their voices heard [and] with the help of PPD made it safely to Independence Mall where they successfully completed their program,” he said.
Sullivan reported that police made no arrests and reported no incidents, “which means we were able to remain focused on our primary mission, which is to facilitate peaceful exercise of the First Amendment right of free expression by creating a safe environment,” he said.
“I thought the PPD and the protesters can both be proud of what we all accomplished through mutual respect,” Sullivan added.
Regarding how well the police handled the event, Tyler said that from the first protest after the announcement in November that the Ferguson officer who shot and killed Michael Brown would not be criminally charged, “Police were very professional.”
“That, however,” Tyler added, “does not take away from the fact that we have some real issues with the way policing is done when the camera is not rolling.”
Tyler said it is a police officer’s primary duty to be professional and cordial and said he believes most cops are pretty good people.
“But hell,” he said, “100 bad cops is 100 too many.”