Thousands marched from North Broad Street to Independence Mall today in memory of Martin Luther King Jr.
Over 1000 people gathered outside of the School District building this afternoon in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. In what turned out to be part march, part protest, and part observance of the civil rights leader’s birthday, the crowd nearly doubled by the time it concluded its 1.3-mile trek to Independence Mall.
Before the procession began at 440 N. Broad Street, a number of speakers addressed the crowd, calling for unity and peace.
“We are not here today because we share the same race, beliefs, or philosophical backgrounds,” Reverend Dr. Alyn E. Waller said, his voice booming through the PA system. “We are all here because we share convictions about jobs, justice, and education.”
The crowd broke out into applause, and then rallied behind a call-and-response chant.
“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?”
“If we don’t get it?”
“Shut it down!”
Hundreds of police officers on bicycles processed respectfully alongside the group as they made their way south to City Hall.
Every color, age, class, and religion of Philadelphia seemed present. Union advocates, minimum wage advocates, lawyers’ guilds, school teachers, democratic socialists, Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities — dozens of organizations joined together peacefully, their chants often overlapping. The most common outcries, however, were those against police violence. “Black lives matter” and “Hands up, don’t shoot” — phrases that emerged following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner last summer — could be heard at any time throughout the crowd.
While diverse, the organizations’ various goals echoed Reverend Waller’s refrain about “jobs, justice, and education.”
José Torres, 20, circled City Hall holding an poster of Martin Luther King Jr. that read “My dream? $15 and a union.” He marched alongside his colleagues and friends who support Fight for 15 PA, an organization of fast food workers who argue for a higher minimum wage and the right to unionize. Torres currently works at KFC making $7.35 an hour. He believes there is a link between the Black Lives Matter and the Fight for 15 movement.
“We got people fighting for people, that’s what it is,” he told AL DIA. “We got to stand together and fight together to get our point across, to have our voices be louder for the government to hear us. If we can’t link up with our neighbors — and that’s what I’m going to call it, we’re neighbors — then there’s no way anybody will hear us.”