Here’s a report back on one march that took place Monday, October 26. This march didn’t get much attention so I want to share my experience of it because it pushed the envelope in terms of what a medium sized group of people can accomplish. This report back is a snapshot of one moment that night, so much more happened that night and the next one, and there are so many things worth discussing that I don’t touch on. Hopefully this is only one of many reports and conversations on the Walter Wallace Jr uprising.
A buzz of the phone let me know that the police had shot a man in West Philly. Then word spread that the man who had been shot had died at the hospital, and that unsurprisingly he was black. A call was circulating for a demonstration at Malcolm X Park.
A group of a couple hundred of us marched out of the park toward the 18th Precinct where the cops who killed the man were from. Multiple approaches to the building were foiled by barricades and cops with helmets and riot shields lined up behind them. After a few attempts at getting to the building we turned around and went east instead, back toward the park. Photographers’ and journalists’ cameras were blocked as we went toward 52nd St. Once we were one 52nd St a few people tried to throw rocks at an unmarked police car ahead of the march, were told off, and after a strikingly short conversation had convinced their critics, some of whom joined them and also proved to have better aim.
We stopped at the corner of the park and some people began to tell a camera person to stop filming. As they left a news van parked at the corner was vandalized, sides tagged, tires pierced, and the windshield smashed. The marching was buzzing and joyful as people chanted “what did you see? I didn’t see shit!” People discussed and quickly decided to head towards the police stations in University City where they would likely be less guarded. On the way people learned the man who had been killed was named Walter Wallace and we shouted it, and it was written upon available walls alongside anti-police graffiti.
With only a couple blocks between us and the police stations the march stopped and a heated argument ensued. The argument was between some people who felt the march should be going toward the unguarded University City precincts and some people who wanted the march to return to the 18th Precinct to support the family of Walter Wallace Jr. The argument was unnecessarily heated, the two approaches — support and attack — are both important, it’s a strength that we can find more than one way to confront the situation. The argument split the march; some headed back West towards the 18th Precinct while others continued to the University City ones. I was with the latter march.
University City is policed by the Philly Police Department, Drexel Police, the University of Pennsylvania Police, and University City District Safety Ambassadors. As we approached the back of the UPenn police station a line of maybe four cops blocked the street with bicycles. We took the sidewalk, went around them, and people smashed and tagged the back of the building. At the end of the block we turned north onto 40th where a UPenn police car sat idling, as we passed it someone smashed some of its windows before it drove away. Turning another corner east onto Chestnut St we found ourselves with almost no cops around in front of a PPD substation and the UCD office, both of which lost most of their windows. Having visited the police stations like we’d wanted, we decided to head back toward the 18th Precinct to see what was happening there. The march back was unusually calm considering what had just happened. We had police cars and a police bus following us that we kept at bay by repeatedly barricading the street with dumpsters and other materials. We made it to the 18th Precinct with no arrests and joined the larger crowd there.
It’s still unbelievable to me that a group of people that wasn’t that big was able to attack two police stations and the UCD office, while the police were there, and walk away! It sets a new precedent for what is possible.
RIP Walter Wallace Jr
Much love to everyone who took their rage and sorrow into the street
Freedom for everyone arrested during the uprising
Forever fuck the police