A Firsthand Account In Philadephia Part One
Okay, so here is my account of what I did out on the streets of Philadelphia, Tuesday the 21st of June, 2005. This is part one of three.
I woke up around 8:00 a.m. that morning. As I got ready to head out to Food Not Bombs, I found out that it was to be held in front of a major pharmaceutical corporation called GlaxoSmithKline. Food was really the only thing on my mind as I struggled with the bike I had borrowed that day for it wasn't working correctly, but someone could still use it, so I did.
As I got to GlaxoSmithKline with the two people I had been riding with I locked the bike I had up to a no parking sign and got in line for some yummy food. While I was waiting I noticed the police all over the place. It was kind of hard not to. There was live music, drumming, even an open microphone for people to speak into.
After everyone was pretty much finished eating a handful of really wonderful speakers talked about the dangers of bio technology and the myths (not to mention lies) that the industry would rather have you believe. It was informative and enjoyable, the crowd cheering as each speaker finished.
When the speakers were done it was time to go and everyone broke up into three different groups. One to protest the state of health care, another to protest the destruction of the environment, and last but not least the protest against bio weapons. All of which are related to bio technology on many different levels, but in the end all come back to the common cause of bio technology.
I was out there to cover the events of the day and with the help of the Philadelphia Indymedia folks we broke up into three groups to cover each branch of the three demonstrations. I choose to go to the environmental one and cover that. From GlaxoSmithKline I walked a few blocks over to 1640 (I believe) Arch Street. A truck was waiting with all kinds of signs, giant puppets, and huge banners. Everyone was in really good spirits as everyone was being moved from the truck across the streets onto the sidewalk into a pile.
The police at 1640 Arch Street weren't giving anyone any problems. A few civil affairs officers (cops dressed in suits with orange armbands that said police on them) had followed us from a distance and were observing but not interfering with the people taking part in the events of the day. There were other officers there too taking pictures, taking video with their giant shoulder camera, talking to people, what you would expect from the police. They stood there with everyone off to the side and in cars.
Signs were passed out as people gathered in a circle. A few speakers went on to talk about the dangers of bio technology and the negative impacts its having around the world, and what the means for all living things. As the speakers finished some chant sheets were passed out and practiced which went on for about ten minutes. The route had been discussed with police by an organizer who was letting them know the plan of action.
A short time later with everyone ready to march people took to the streets. There were maybe 75 to 100 people easy walking around dressed as puppets, holding signs, banners, drumming, chanting, you name it. The march went towards 19th from 1640 Arch Street where it took a left onto 19th. On the way the march took a turn for city hall. Civil affairs officers tried to keep everyone on the sidewalk but there were too many people around for that to happen so after about half a block to a block at one point, people took to the streets again with the police walking along side. A few patrol cars were blocking off traffic so the march could proceed at each intersection. It seemed that the civil affairs officers understood that if they just let people take the streets things would go back to normal faster then having everyone stuck on the sidewalks stretching things out, causing things to move slower.
As the group of people protesting got closer to city hall everyone could see that another group of people were on the surrounding sidewalk of city hall making just as much noise. It was the group protesting for better health care and as each group got closer together the cheering got louder, echoing off the tall buildings all around.
There was a more heavy police presents with the healthcare protest then there was with the environmental one. Dozens of police on bicycles were off to one side trying to control the flow of the protesters, and they were on the sidewalk. As the environmental protest reached the street in front of city hall it turned to the side cheering with the healthcare protest. Now together, everyone started to walk off to one side of city hall to get to the other side.
As this was all happening hundreds upon hundreds of people of all different ages on skateboards appeared, increasing the number of people there to almost if not double. They were there to take back Love Park, a famous park in the skater world that the city banned skaters from skating in last year. They were there to take it back, and with over five hundred strong whizzing past myself with over two thousand descending upon the city in groups just as large skating around, it looked like their plan was going to work.
Everyone was cheering and was really loud. Everyone was in high spirits. There were over five hundred people strong now marching on the streets and on the sidewalks. As everyone got closer to Love Park the police made everyone who was on the street get onto the sidewalk. It slowed everyone down, but with only about three blocks to go it wasn't a big issue to a lot of the people in the crowd it seemed, but they still didn't like the fact that they were being told that they couldn't march in the streets.
With drums, drums made from buckets, and drums made from eight gallon water jugs people joined around one another taking up one whole corner of the block city hall was on. Everyone waited there for about five minutes diagonally across from Love Park so everyone could catch up. As this was going on the third group out there demonstrating, the bio weapons protest turned the corner on the other side of the block and everyone started to cheer. They had huge signs of skulls with a name of a bio weapon such as "anthrax" written on the top of the skulls. I stood there between the two groups as everyone came together. Now everyone was ready to enter Love Park.
With that, everyone poured into the streets and walked right through the busy intersection. Cars stopping and watching the colorful and creative display walking past them. As everyone entered and got into the park skateboards who were in the park came over and started to interview people with their video cameras.
With everyone now in the park some people got up and started to yell that everyone who was out there was also with the skateboarders and their cause to take back the park. The skaters seemed to approve and with the, the police moved in, telling any skateboarder that they were not allowed into the park. Skaters got really pissed off and tried to get in at other entrances, but the police stopped anyone with a skateboard from entering, telling them to leave. All the skateboarders decided to take off and skate around some more, and that is when everyone in the demonstrations going on decided to move to.
Everyone who was on foot started to leave Love Park. I had no idea where everyone was going so I just followed. As the group of people still big in numbers walked away from love park and got about two blocks away, the police boxed everyone in on three sides. For about fifteen minutes there was a stand off between police and demonstrators in the streets. Finally the police moved off to the side to follow and the marching got back underway.
I could see off in the distance that the convention center was up ahead, it was hard to miss. The numbers of police grew as everyone got closer. As people arrived at the convention center waling about a block down and then turning from an intersection onto a street that had hundreds of police, the police had their lines drawn. With all the cops standing shoulder to shoulder from one side of the sidewalk to the other across the street it was obvious that nobody was going to be moving any farther down that street. Police setup another line of bicycle police in front of the main line and as people approached, they moved back to the main line of police.
Everyone was cheering and chanting, having a good time. Then suddenly lots of shouting an movement started to happen about thirty feet in front of me. I had no idea what was going on, but I assumed the police and people in the crowd were involved. As I moved to get closer I could see the police rushing in and trying to form a circle around what was going on. Police started to drag people away, and I mean really drag them on the ground. I was filming so I wanted to get closer and from in front of a line of cops I could see a civil affairs officer on the ground. I knew that it was a civil affairs officer because it was one of a few who had followed the group of people I had been walking with to 1640 Arch Street.
As I tried to get a better angle I could see that other police were giving the civil affairs officer CPR. I though he had collapsed from the heat, but as the police tore his shirt off and started to press down on his chest in the middle of the street, continuing to give CPR I could tell that it was more and thought to myself that they guy most have had a heart attack.
Suddenly lots of people came in and started to push people back, not stating why, just pushing people with their bikes. It was all really confusing to a lot of people I noticed who were getting really pissed off that they were being pushed around. As I was walking off to the side to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk with the police pushing people back from behind me in the street an officer with a bike I was standing a few feet away from took his bike a pushed it into me, hitting me with his handle bars. I was filming the push-back when this happened and when I asked the officer why he had hit me he said it was because, "you were filming me." I told him that I wasn't and he had no right to hit me with is bike. He just stood there and gave me a mean look telling me again, "you were filming me." With no order to move or get back I informed the officer that I had a legal right to be out here filming and informed his of what that entailed.
A friend of mine in the push back had his bike pulled away from him by police and he was trying to get it back. With police walking around everyone they were bumping into him, knocking him over to one side where he would bump into another officer, pissing them off. A female officer with a video camera wasn't paying attention as he was talking to an officer about his bike and ran right into him face first, face to face. It was a total accident, but it ticked off the police even more and they almost arrested him, but before they could one of the commanders out there walked up and asked what was going on. A few minutes later my friend had his bike back thanks to one of the commanders in charge.
As an ambulance passed through the crowd with the civil affairs officer in it things started to calm down. People were still drumming and chanting as the delegates inside the conference were looking out the windows to people chanting, "shame! shame! shame!" over and over again. It was very clear why people were out there.
I wanted to find out more to what had happened to the civil affairs officer so I went around and started to ask people. From what I was told from someone who saw it all was that a civil affairs officer ran into the crowd (some said it was because someone through water) and started to punch kids who were out there in the street in the face. As this was going on the officer who was throwing punches stopped in mid-swing and grabbed his chest, falling to the ground. Keep in mind that this is not my account, but the accounts of at least five other people I talked to who said they saw what happened. Later though I saw video from a corporate media footage of the event and you can see that the events told above backup these stories.
End of Part One.
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