On Sunday afternoon, disk jockey Russ Ferrante’s black pickup truck crept up South Broad Street with nearly 75 South Philadelphians marching from Oregon Avenue to City Hall. They carried American and police flags and handmade signs that read “Thank You South Philly Police” and some that said “Police Lives Matter.” It was a rally organized by Carol Lanni’s Taking Our South Philly Streets Back titled “Support Our Police.”
It was a mostly low-pitched event, save for Ferrante’s mood-elevating pop tunes. And while the country still feels the ripples of the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, Lanni stressed that it’s not about race — it’s about building safe communities and acknowleding that police officers will do a better job and go the extra mile if they feel encouraged and respected by the communities they serve.
“They’re human beings. They’re running short-staffed because the city only gives them so many cars or officers for each district,” Lanni, a resident of the 2600 block of South Bouvier Street, said. “I believe the police are not getting the fair shake that they need. We all have to follow laws, and these guys are out there risking their life and limb daily, in hot and cold weather, with no guarantee that they’re going to come back [home].”
She recalled a recent memory where she said “Thank you for protecting our community” and the officer who received the praise looked at her as if she had 10 heads.
“I don’t think they get that,” she said, enough or often, anyway.
Joe Eastman lives on the 2500 block of South 10th Street. He and his wife feel safe on their block, partly because they feel the sense of community that gives many South Philadelphians a feeling of security. The former Navy man was on the Police Advisory Council of the Sixth District in Chinatown and a townwatch president before he moved to Lower Moyamensing.
“They’re trying to do a very difficult job that a lot of people wouldn’t do in this day and age,” Eastman said before the march. “I think it goes back to when I was a kid — the police were never the enemy. Bad mouth a cop and you got smacked.”
The rally was similar to one held late last year in Northeast Philadelphia and another that took place a couple weeks ago at Independence Hall. Did Eastman think these rallies are racially charged?
“I get that there are all sides to this. The majority of us are law-abiding citizens, but you don’t hear about us. Peaceful people don’t sell newspapers,” Eastman said.
Participation was primarily from white and older citizens, or at least, the people of color involved in the event were officers staffing and protecting the walk; and the two youngest in attendance were children of officers.
Dominique Pfettscher, 15, a resident of the 2600 block of South Carlisle Street who attends String Theory Charter School in Center City, and Jake Brandt, 14, a Packer Park resident who commutes to Central High School in Olney, were not very vocal. Asked if they hear their peers speak negatively of their parents’ profession, they nodded yes. Do they speak up to defend their dads?
“Sometimes” they replied with a grin.
They both have interest in a future in health care.
It was August of 2013 when Lanni’s 11-year-old son became a mugging victim at the hands of about 10 juveniles. More traumatizing than the experience they had with an uncaring detective at the 1st District, 2301 S. 24th St., was the thought that it could’ve turned out way worse than a stolen phone. That night she was by his side as he fell asleep and she said “I could’ve been burying him — that’s how the Facebook page started.”
The page has almost 15,000 followers now, and it’s a popular place for area residents to hear about neighborhood crime and ask for help in reporting it.
Carin Porchia, a resident of the 2700 block of South 16th Street, brought her 6-year-old son Shane and almost 2-year-old daughter Rosalina out to help show support. Two of her husband’s cousins are officers in the 17th District, 20th and Federal streets.
“You learn about everything that’s going on in the neighborhood that you don’t know about,” Porchia said but added that “it’s pretty quiet” in her community, Marconi.
Nina, born and raised in Girard Estate and Marty McNulty, residents of the 2500 block of South 21st Street, noted that Lanni is like a sister to them.
“Like anywhere else, you can’t leave your door open,” Nina said, adding “of course we support the police.”
Delores Nichols and Maria Trujillo stepped outside of Criniti Ristorante Italiano, 2611 S. Broad St., to take in the rally with curiosity.
“Absolutely — definitely” they said when asked if they support the police.
“It’s a shame there’s not a better turnout,” Trujillo added.
At the corner of Broad Street and Snyder Avenue, a moment of silence honored the gunfire-killing of Charles Thomas Knox, a 31-year-old who died on August 30, 1992 when the present-day Walgreen’s was a Roy Rogers. At 13th and Locust streets, marchers honored Daniel J. Faulkner, a 25-year-old who died on December 9, ’81 after pulling over a driver for driving in the wrong direction. And at City Hall, Ferrante read aloud all of the fallen officers’ names and how they were killed.
One unidentified resident refused to talk to the South Philly Review because of a belief that the media is the problem. He referred to a recent police report item about a girl robbed at an ATM and said “you don’t see that on the news, but as soon as a cop touches a minority, it’s all over the news.” People of color walking south on Broad Street seemed to stare in amazement at the procession, as did African Americans waiting for the bus at Broad and Tasker streets.
“There’s good and bad in everything. The captains have said to us, if there’s an issue, of course I need you to tell us,” Lanni said, adding that she found the attendance disappointing. “South Philadelphia does a lot of talking without action, but I am not one of those people — I want to act. I am not happy with the turnout. The more you’re involved in your community, the safer it becomes.”
As for the Police Lives Matter signs, Lanni said “whatever signs people made to support the rally, I don’t have any control over.” As for race, well, as Lanni put it, “with a criminal, there’s no race, creed or color. It doesn’t matter. There are consequences to every action.”
Staff Writer Bill Chenevert at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 117.
Some of the participants of Sunday’s “Support Our Police” rally, which marched up to City Hall with signs of support, flags and police escorts.