Report on the recent arrest of West Philadelphia community organizer Anthony Smith amid growing repression of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Early Wednesday morning, federal agents raided the West Philadelphia home of Anthony Smith, an outspoken community activist and a leader in the movement for Black lives in Philadelphia. Smith, 29, was arrested and is being held on multiple Federal charges several hours away from his home at the Allenwood Jail as he and his community struggle to pull together his legal defense. Smith’s arrest comes after nights of community uprising in West Philadelphia after the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. There have yet to be any charges brought against the officers involved in the shooting and as of yet the community has not even been told the names of the officers.
“After two nights of mass arrests and police brutality against community members calling for justice for Walter Wallace, seeing Federal charges brought against a movement leader like Anthony is sickening,” said longtime friend James Miles. “All this makes you wonder, ‘Is the Federal government arresting and charging movement leaders to try to scare the rest of us?”
— UpAgainstTheLawLC (@UpAgainstTheLaw) June 10, 2020
Anthony Smith has been the victim of police brutality on multiple occasions throughout his life. His first encounter with police violence was being stopped and frisked by Philadelphia Police officers at the age of 10. Over the years, as he became more outspoken about the injustices Black people face at the hands of police, he has become an explicit target at protests. Earlier this summer, Smith was arrested while peacefully protesting in West Philadelphia in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd. He was held without charges and threatened with violence from the police before being released hours later and forced to walk 3 hours home in the middle of the night.
“We’re tired of Black Philadelphians being targeted and held on trumped up charges for having the audacity to stand up for their community, ” said Philly for REAL Justice steering committee member Kamau Mshale. “Whether it’s Mumia 40 years ago, or Anthony Smith last night, Black people are being thrown in prison for speaking truth to power.”
Federal agents arrest outspoken Philadelphia activist amid rising repression of the Black Lives Matter movement pic.twitter.com/w2FSlBo5OW
— UpAgainstTheLawLC (@UpAgainstTheLaw) October 29, 2020
Smith is a beloved social studies teacher at YouthBuild Charter School, where he is known for the genuine connections he builds with his students inside and outside of the classroom. In his free time, he is an organizer and volunteer with multiple organizations throughout Philadelphia. He is a fixture at 60th and Market each Friday, where he serves free food to the community with Food not Bombs Solidarity. In addition to being a valuable asset to his workplace and a standout organizer, Smith is a beloved community member with a passion for making sure that everyone around him is protected at all times.
“Anthony is one of the most selfless people I know,” says college classmate Dr. Jasmine Peake. “Anything that he’s ever done has been in defense of his community. It really hurts to see him ripped from his family and friends in the middle of the night and thrown in jail.”
“In this moment, we must prioritize the pleasure of the most impacted by oppression.” adrienne maree brown
City officials cancelled curfew after last night’s Abolitionist “All Curfews Are Bullshit” dance party sees hundreds break curfew pic.twitter.com/W67QgRSm0H
— RevAbolitionPHL (@RAM_Philly) June 7, 2020
For years, Smith has organized with Philly for REAL (Racial Economic and Legal) Justice, an organization which just been recognized as being at the forefront of the movement to take #RizzoDown, has called for an end to stop and frisk policies in Philadelphia, and has supported the families of victims of police murder in calling for accountability for their loved ones. Philly for REAL Justice is also one of the convening organizations of the Black Philly Radical Collective which has released 13 demands calling for an “End to the War on Black People.” Smith’s arrest comes on the heels of mass arrests across Philadelphia over the last few nights and in the wake of federal charges being brought against Black Lives Matter movement leaders across the country.
We demand that these baseless, politically-motivated charges be dropped,” said fellow REAL Justice steering committee member Felicia Teter. “We demand the immediate release of Anthony Smith and all others who have been arrested for their participation in the Black Lives Matter movement We will not let Anthony become yet another political prisoner at the hands of this fascist government”
Up Against the Law Legal Collective is supporting Anthony Smith and all those on the streets protesting against Walter Wallace’s murder.
If law enforcement, federal or otherwise, approach you on the street, come to your home, or contact you in any way, do not speak to them without a lawyer present. You have the right to remain silent, exercise that right.