A mural in Fishtown: Solidarity or publicity stunt?
The “END RACISM NOW” mural has caused controversy as residents are questioning what purpose it actually served.
Along Girard Avenue in Fishtown, Philadelphia, a painted sign in the middle of the intersection reads “END RACISM NOW,” along with the names of those who were murdered at the hands of law enforcement. This display, not organized or supported by the Black Lives Matter movement, has quickly come under scrutiny as citizens of the community have called the demonstration a fake event.
On Tuesday night, neighborhood residents gathered on Girard to exhibit solidarity with the black community by painting a sign in front of Philadelphia’s 26th police district headquarters. Though what looked like a coming together, was actually a display honoring those who just last week, were attacking the protestors walking down that same street.
Conrad Benner, the founder of StreetsDept.com, and a deep believer in public art, was born and raised in Fishtown.
Benner said in an interview with AL DÍA that while he was originally excited for the mural, he could not find the organizers of the event, and decided not to attend.
He added that later on that evening, he saw the event was not only poorly organized, but thought it looked like a publicity stunt, and ultimately, there was no public apology from the 26th police precinct about the occurrences that happened last Monday, June 1, where police chose not disperse a group of armed white residents facing off with protesters.
The reports from community members on the anger tonight’s fake event caused just keep coming in, I honestly can barely keep up.
Really hope a bigger media outlet reports on all of this tomorrow... pic.twitter.com/EJWw6jjlwH
— Conrad Benner (@StreetsDept) June 10, 2020
“My big take on this has been that healing cannot start until there has been accountability, and this was not it.” added Benner.
A closer look at the people who helped paint the sign were cops from the 26th district headquarters and Pastor John Brice from St. James United Methodist Church. Some witnesses took to Twitter with further criticism.
— RJ Rushmore (@rjrushmore) June 11, 2020
To some, Pastor Brice is a beacon of hope to his community in Philadelphia. In an article by The Philadelphia Tribune, Brice is described as “the Pied Piper of Peace” for his work in the neighborhood amid uprisings over the last couple weeks.
However, Ernest Owens, a journalist, tweeted that Brice, despite his attribution to the protests, has another unspoken history.
— Ernest Owens (@MrErnestOwens) June 10, 2020
The city’s fire department tried washing the mural away late Tuesday night, but were unsuccessful.
They released a statement, expressing the organizers’ wish to move the display after the photo op and to find it a permanent home.
“The city has no intentions of removing it at this time,” they said.
The message can still be seen in the middle of the intersection on Girard Ave., but be weary as it is not blocked off for pedestrians to view- cars will honk and possibly run you over if you don’t get out of the way.