Philly protesters march amid vote count, fatal OIS video release
Demonstrators carried both "Count Every Vote" and "Black Lives Matter" signs
By Justine McDaniel, Anna Orso, Samantha Melamed and Aubrey Whelan
The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — With votes in Pennsylvania being counted, the nation waiting anxiously for the results of the presidential contest, and Philadelphia officials releasing the body-camera footage from the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr., about 1,000 people marched through Philadelphia on Wednesday evening.
Two protests, one in opposition to President Donald Trump's calls to halt vote-counting efforts in some states and one over the Oct. 26 killing of Wallace, merged into a large demonstration that was dominated by protests in Wallace's name as the night went on.
After the bodycam footage of Wallace's killing was released by city officials following a news conference, the protests continued. Organizers acknowledged the release of the video but, said Krystal Strong of the Black Philly Radical Collective and Black Lives Matter Philly: "There is no videotape evidence that will ever allow us to say that their life didn't matter.
"Let us be clear: Watch the film, circulate the film if you need to," Strong told the crowd on Market Street at Independence Mall. "But the fact remains that Walter Wallace should still be here ... and we will continue to fight until the police officers who killed him are accountable, until they are fired, until they are jailed, and until this entire system is uprooted."
Carrying both "Count Every Vote" and "Black Lives Matter" signs, protesters marched from City Hall to Independence Mall and then to Mayor Jim Kenney's home in Old City, chanting the names of Black people who have been killed by police.
"We will come to the mayor's house for as long as it takes to get justice. You will be uncomfortable. You will hear our voices," Gabe Bryant of Philly Black Radical Collective said once the crowd had reached Kenney's residence. "We will be here demanding justice until Sean Matarazzo and Thomas Munz are seen in ... handcuffs."
For many on the streets Wednesday, Wallace's death and the unsettled election are linked.
"We believe the same systems trying to stop every vote from being counted," said Bryan Mercer, Media Mobilizing Project executive director, "are the same systems that murdered Walter."
The afternoon had already brought hundreds of "Count Every Vote" demonstrators to Center City, where they marched from a rally on Independence Mall to City Hall before dispersing. Similar rallies were held in Delaware and Montgomery counties as part of a nationwide campaign of marches known as Protect the Results.
"We just want to make sure people aren't disenfranchised," said Ian Manion, 19, who came to City Hall on Wednesday night with two other Temple University students.
The "Count Every Vote" protesters, organized by various leftist political groups, were responding to Trump's efforts to halt vote-counting, including a claim in a 2 a.m. speech that counting all legally cast ballots was "a fraud on the American public." On Wednesday, Trump vowed to challenge Pennsylvania's election results in court on multiple fronts, including seeking a temporary halting of vote-counting — even as his campaign prematurely declared victory in the state and as the commonwealth continued its painstaking process of tallying the votes.
"There are people, too many people, people in power, who do not want to count our votes," said Sheridan Earle of Montco Activists United at the Norristown rally, referring to Trump and criticizing the Republican-controlled Legislature for refusing to change the law to allow county elections officials to pre-canvass mail ballots before Election Day.
Philadelphia Congressmen Dwight Evans and Brendan Boyle, both Democrats, addressed the earlier crowd, with Boyle slamming the president's early-morning comments and calling him a "wannabe strongman."
"Let me be absolutely clear," Boyle said. "We are not gonna let him or anyone else steal this election. Count every vote."
Votes in Pennsylvania are taking longer than usual to be counted because it was the state's first year with mass mail voting. Counties were not permitted to begin counting those ballots — more than 2.5 million — until Election Day, and they are accepting ballots through Friday, as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday. It was known before Election Day that it would take multiple days to count Pennsylvania's votes.
The state Supreme Court's decision to allow ballots to be accepted after Tuesday remains the subject of a legal challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court by Pennsylvania Republicans, who do not want votes that were mailed by Election Day but arrive between Wednesday and Friday to be counted.
In a tweet Wednesday afternoon that was hidden by Twitter because it was misleading, Trump tried to cast the counting of legitimate ballots in Pennsylvania as a conspiracy to make his lead "disappear."
"We're here to honor the election. We are here to honor counting every single legally filed vote," said Vicki Miller of Indivisible Philadelphia, addressing the Independence Mall crowd. "It's going to take a little patience. It's going to take a little time. We knew that before the election, didn't we; we knew that this vote was not going to come out instantaneously."
The protesters also were hoping to raise progressive visibility as Democratic nominee Joe Biden called for patience.
"Remember what happened in 2000. The Democrats wanted to be patient and Republicans mobilized," said Eric Jenkins, 25, a member of Socialist Alternative. "If we stand still, Trump can steal this election."
Movement Alliance Project executive director Bryan Mercer said Wednesday afternoon that progressive groups in Philadelphia have been preparing for this scenario — an uncertain result that could hinge on Pennsylvania — for weeks.
"This isn't the time to just stay in our seats," he said. "This is the time to show every leader and person responsible that we're gonna watch this process, and we're gonna demand a full process, and demand every vote is counted."
In Philadelphia, Hundreds Protest Police Killing pic.twitter.com/jBdN3Ltk4c— R J RAJ (@RJRAJ62550028) November 5, 2020
Philadelphia. New York. Chicago. Houston. Thousands joining protests across America tonight with a simple demand: every vote must be counted. pic.twitter.com/BlNyMMj7OQ— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) November 5, 2020
(c)2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer