Hundreds of demonstrators, including Penn students, marched on the streets of West Philadelphia Saturday afternoon to protest the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. on Monday.
At least 500 protesters gathered at the corner of Locust and 61st streets outside the home of Wallace Jr. at approximately 12:10 p.m. on Oct. 26. Minutes after gathering on Saturday, the group began marching to the corner of Pine and 55th streets, where a line of police officers stood blockading the street and the police precinct at 5510 Pine Street.
2013 Engineering graduate and Pa. House Representative Rick Krajewski (D) from the 188th district, which encompasses Penn's campus, was among the protesters and spoke with a number of individuals, but has not addressed the group as a whole.
Leaders from the protest approached the line of police officers and spoke with them for about 30 minutes as other leaders rallied the crowd, encouraging them to continue protesting until meaningful change is made.
At 1:45 p.m., the group — which continued to grow throughout the afternoon — began marching east on Spruce Street before congregating in Malcolm X Park at 5150 Pine Street, where leaders are addressing the crowd.
Speakers, who addressed the crowd from an elevated platform set up in the middle of the park, listed a set of 15 demands regarding police and government reform. They called for the immediate firing of the police officers who shot Wallace Jr. and the disbanding of all private police departments.
On Monday afternoon, two Philadelphia police officers shot and killed Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man, leading to protests near Penn's campus and through West Philadelphia that night and throughout the following day.
Police say Wallace Jr. was armed with a knife and has a history of mental health problems including bipolar disorder. Wallace Jr.'s family had called 911 asking for an ambulance earlier that day to help manage Wallace Jr.'s unstable mental condition, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
2016 College and 2017 School of Education graduate Zoe Sturges was among those protesting on Saturday and said she was protesting both the police killing of Wallace Jr. as well police officers' treatment of a woman who was slowly driving through the protest on Tuesday morning.
Videos of the encounter show 15 police officers surrounding an SUV that was slowly navigating through the protest, bashing its windows, pulling a woman and another passenger from the car, and beating them, the Inquirer reported.
Police later shared a photo of a toddler — who officers appeared to have pulled from the backseat of the SUV — with an inaccurate caption that claimed they had found the child wandering the streets after having gotten lost amid the protesting.
Sturges said she felt Penn is "very directly responsible for police brutality in the city of Philadelphia." She cited the University's donations to the Philadelphia Police Foundation which directly fund the purchasing of SWAT team equipment, drones, and state-of-the-art ballistic helmets.
Leaders of Penn Community for Justice were also among the hundreds protesting on Saturday and leaders from PCJ said they were at the protest in solidarity with Philadelphia’s Black leadership.
“We believe that the way that Walter Wallace Jr. was taken away from us is unjust, and abolishing the police and investing in our community and just all the ways in which the system has failed Walter Wallace Jr. is directly aligned to the demands that we want as an organization,” Penn Community for Justice leader Sarah Min said.
Amelia Carter, PCJ leader and Assistant Director of the South Asia Center, added that the group supports the demands of groups such as Philly Black Radical Collective and Philly for Real Justice to abolish private police forces, including Penn Police.
“We recognize that these forces are oppressive forces within our community,” Carter said.
Penn announced on June 24 it would stop purchasing tickets to Philadelphia Police Foundation fundraisers. The University also commissioned an independent review of Penn's Division of Public Safety in the June 24 announcement.
Sturges, who also participated in the Philadelphia protests over the death of George Floyd this summer, said she has not seen nearly enough reform from the city in regards to policing.
"In terms of reform within the city, I am very disappointed," Sturges said. "There have been minor cuts but it is not enough."
Video editor Sage Levine contributed reporting.