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Politics & Government

Black Lives Matter Activists Lead March To Democratic Convention

Protesters with the Black Lives Matter movement and other groups march through downtown Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention.
Protesters with the Black Lives Matter movement and other groups march through downtown Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention.

Hundreds marched 6 miles through the heart of the nation's birthplace on Tuesday in the first high-profile street protest for more police accountability during the Democratic National Convention.

Organized by activists from the Black Lives Matter movement and other groups with the Philly Coalition for R.E.A.L. Justice, the hours-long demonstration started in North Philadelphia, a historically black neighborhood sprinkled with vacant lots and boarded-up buildings that had been left out of the convention's spotlight.

"This is where the brutality begins," said Asa Khalif, a march organizer who also leads the Pennsylvania chapter of Black Lives Matter. "This is 'the hood.' And we need to educate our people in this 'hood' to let them know we haven't abandoned them."

Protesters raised red, black and green Pan-African flags as organizer Erica Mines used a bullhorn from the back of a flatbed truck to call out "Philando Castile," "Walter Scott" and names of other people who died after police-involved shootings.

Demonstrators responded, "We honor you," before handwritten signs with each of the victims' names were distributed to be carried during the march. Police officers on bicycles and in vehicles escorted the crowd down Broad Street to the Wells Fargo center.

The protest took place hours before Lezley Mc Spadden, mother of Michael Brown; Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; and other mothers who lost children in high-profile incidents — many of which involved police — took the stage at the convention.

Mothers of the Movement (from left) Maria Hamilton, Annette Nance-Holt, Gwen Carr, Geneva Reed-Veal, Lucia McBath, Sybrina Fulton, Cleopatra Pendleton-Cowley, Wanda Johnson and Lezley Mc Spadden take the stage on the second evening of the Democratic National Convention.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
Mothers of the Movement (from left) Maria Hamilton, Annette Nance-Holt, Gwen Carr, Geneva Reed-Veal, Lucia McBath, Sybrina Fulton, Cleopatra Pendleton-Cowley, Wanda Johnson and Lezley Mc Spadden take the stage on the second evening of the Democratic National Convention.

But Shandre Delaney, a 57-year-old protester from Pittsburgh, said she was more interested in hearing about Hillary Clinton's policy proposals to demilitarize police departments and end mass incarceration.

"We can talk about what's going on all day long, but if nothing's going to be done, then our talk is just being wasted," said Delaney, who is the mother of two sons.

North Philadelphia resident Anthony Dickerson sympathizes with the protesters but said he is concerned about taxpayers having to pay large settlements in civil lawsuits against police departments by families of police shooting victims. It's a concern many of his neighbors share, he said, but he didn't expect many of them to speak out in the streets.

"Most people in the neighborhood, they're not going to come out," Dickerson said. "They just don't feel it's going to be productive. They're under so much duress for so long that they don't have any faith in the system."

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Black Lives Matter protesters march through downtown Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday.
Spencer Platt / Getty Images
Black Lives Matter protesters march through downtown Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday.