Thousands assemble in Center City as protests continue for 8th day

KYW Staff
June 06, 2020 - 2:22 pm
Thousands of protesters assembles Saturday afternoon at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for another day of protests.

Courtesy of NBC10 Philadelphia

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UPDATED: 8:23 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Thousand of people gathered at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and then marched across the city, taking over the streets to make a point about racial injustice in America.

Organizers expected approximately 10,000 attendees, though police said they expected close to 11,000.

As the crowd assembled in front of the Art Museum, city officials announced another curfew for the eighth night in a row, effective at 8 p.m. and ending Sunday at 6 a.m.

The visibly diverse crowd was composed of protesters of all ages, though it mostly skewed young. A number of families with children were seen in attendance.

Demonstrators protest outside City Hall Saturday afternoon.
Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio

Some were on the scene giving out water bottles and snacks to demonstrators. Other supplies being distributed were masks and gloves, as well as spray bottle solutions to neutralize tear gas.

While medics expected a peaceful event, they said they were prepared to equip themselves with goggles and helmets, and urged caregivers to take them only if they were ready to walk into tear gas.

"Black lives matter!" shouted protester Bianca Blu Lazuli. She said the message goes beyond George Floyd, and is about every Black person in America.

Bianca Blu Lazuli was among those protesting Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.
Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio

"We deserve life. Everyone deserves life," she declared, and described racism as a health crisis in America.

"There is a pandemic going on, but it's several pandemics," she explained. "Our mental health system, our public health system, our criminal justice system, our legislative system, our social structure, our arts and entertainment system. Everything that we do is dictated around a racist set of rules, and until we get rid of those rules, we can't fix anything else about this country."

And now that they have the world's attention, protester Tamari Wilson says they want to raise awareness about systemic racism, so they can end it.

"The young people of this country are rising as a generational cohort, and we're demanding substantive change in the way this nation is run," Wilson expressed. "Capitalism cannot survive without oppression, the economic oppression of Black people."

Protesters made their voices heard outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

To promote that change, there was a voter registration booth at the bottom of the Art Museum steps, and people carrying signs encouraging others to vote.

While the turnout out here was enormous, Lazuli said the real turnout that matters will happen in November.

"Every voice matters," she said. "It's like the Lorax said, 'Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing's gonna change, it's not.'"

With all eyes on their movement, Lazuli said it isn't ending anytime soon.

"This protest is the beginning," she said. "We are fighting for the lives of people that we care about. We will not stop until they are protected."

A large police presence was on scene for what was ultimately a peaceful, if loud, event. The protesters began their march around 1 p.m., walking down the Ben Franklin Parkway to City Hall. The crowd rounded City Hall and continued along North Broad Street, before turning back towards the Art Museum.

The marchers started to disperse around 4 p.m., but a group of demonstrators splintered off and returned to City Hall for another rally.

For one couple, a moment to remember

As the protesters made their way along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, they couldn’t help but notice bride Kerry-Anne Perkins and her then-groom-to-be Mike Gordon waving to demonstrators. The couple was about to get married inside the nearby Logan Hotel.

"We were trying to get around to the backside to get married," said Gordon.

Perkins laughed, adding, "We're about to right now."

Gordon continued, "It just feels good, the energy and the love. You know we thought this was going to get in our way. And be a hindrance but all of this turned out to add to the moment. Something that we will remember for the rest of our lives."

Many of the marchers holding "Black Lives Matter" signs posed in wedding photos with the happy couple. 

When asked if they would invite all of these people to the reception, Gordon said with a laugh, "This is the reception."

Teenagers speak out for change

A newly formed group made up of high school students want to do their part in the Black Lives Matter movement. The students set up a table at the protest on Saturday and want to continue the conversation about equality and justice for all on an ongoing basis.

The group of teenagers from Girard College High School were handing out food, water and hand sanitizer to demonstrators along the parkway. 

Their group, called Black Teen Takeover, was recently formed after a Zoom call where students agreed that action needs to be taken by everyone to obtain racial equality.

"We wanted to express our feelings and our thoughts about what is going on today," said 16-year-old Maddison Roberts. "What we are trying to do is bring justice and peace in our community and be leaders to our younger generation, so they see that some of us are trying to make a change and we are not just sitting around. We are actually out here trying to tell the community that we are out here taking action.”

The group took their efforts to social media.

Jerry and his wife Jean of Center City made a donation to the group, saying, "Black Lives Matter couldn’t be more important. This is a multiracial city. We have to show multiracial unity.”

KYW Newsradio's Hadas Kuznits and John McDevitt contributed to this report.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this report mispelled Ms. Perkins' first name as Carianne. It is Kerry-Anne. We apologize for the error.

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