Over 100 protesters, which included students and faculty from Penn and Drexel University, marched through University City on Sunday calling on both universities to defund and disband the Penn and Drexel Police Departments.
The “March on ‘University City’” demonstration, organized by Police Free Penn, Penn Community for Justice, and Drexel for Justice, began at 1 p.m. EDT at the intersection of 33rd and Market Streets and concluded at the Penn Police Department headquarters on 4040 Chestnut Street at approximately 3:10 p.m.
Sunday’s demonstration marks the latest in a series of protests this summer in Philadelphia and across the country, which were prompted by the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Protesters' demands include that Penn fire Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush, Drexel cut ties with independent police department reviewer and former Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey, and Penn and Drexel pay PILOTs, payments which support the Philadelphia community and schools.
Organizers passed out bottles of water to protesters in the 90 degree heat as the demonstration began with speeches by Amelia Carter, a leader of Penn Community for Justice and Assistant Director of the South Asia Center, and Zoe Sturges, a member of Police Free Penn and a 2017 Graduate School of Education and 2016 College graduate.
Protesters stood behind them while holding signs listing their demands. After nearly an hour of speeches, protesters marched to the intersection of 38th and Market, chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “Who’s streets? Our streets.”
“We’re going to take up the whole damn [street] for as long as we want,” a leader shouted, prompting applause and cheers from the crowd.
The group marched on until they arrived at the Penn Police Department headquarters on 4040 Chestnut Street. After three more speakers from Police Free Penn and Penn Community for Juctice addressed the crowd and led chants such as “What do we want? Police Free Penn,” the demonstration concluded around 3:10 p.m.
About two weeks ago, over 100 Penn students and Philadelphia community members gathered outside the Penn Police Department headquarters to protest Penn Police's alleged presence on 52nd Street on May 31. The incident, in which dozens of protesters were tear gassed and hit by rubber bullets, brought increased scrutiny and protesting to Penn in late July.
In an emailed statement to the DP, Rush wrote that a “small number” of Penn police officers responded to calls for assistance from Philadelphia Police during the May 31 demonstration. She wrote that Penn police did not use force or arrest any protesters and that the Penn police do not own tear gas or rubber bullets.
Nearly 15,000 students and faculty have signed Police Free Penn's petition calling on the University to cease its institutional support of a "racist, fascist police state" that has led to continued violence against Black people.
Staff Photographer Gary Lin contributed reporting.