Today, to mark Martin Luther King Day, I participated in the MLK Day of Action, Resistance, and Empowerment. It was a rally in which several thousand (see update) of us congregated outside of the Philadelphia School District headquarters and marched down Broad St. and Market St. to Independence Mall — the park across the way from the building that houses the Liberty Bell.
The march was a continuation of the protests stemming from the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But it was also more than that. The triple objective — according to the MLK DARE coalition that organized the event — was to end the Philadelphia police department’s stop and frisk policy, to call for better union laws and a city-wide $15/hour minimum wage, and to seek reform in a school district that is one of the worst performing, worst funded in the country.
At first, looking at this description, I thought to myself that the wide net was unfortunate — that this was going to be one of those classic, unfocused liberal political freeforalls where the pro-pot people and the contingent of folks wearing red and singing the Internationale come out to dilute an already diffuse message.
But I was wrong. As soon as I arrived for the march, I saw exactly how, in a well-considered and calculated way, the three objectives fit together as one. They are all three causes for which Martin Luther King Jr. had fought during the course of his career. And they are three of the main structural features of a political system that reproduces urban poverty. Absent quality education and a living wage, social mobility is next to impossible. And that lack of mobility is enforced by a police that presume from the start that any success must be a result of criminal activity. It’s a vicious cycle.
Martin Luther King told us that:
We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity.
And that’s what the rally was about. It was about highlighting the degree to which the ghetto remains a feature of the American landscape, and it was about calling for change in a system where, for too large a segment of the population, dignity is far too rare a commodity.
In any case, I took a lot of pictures at the rally, and I’d like you all to have a look. Usually I only post highlights here and then relegate the rest to a gallery somewhere else. But I’m between places for displaying photographs online right now, so there are more here than usual.
As always, these photos are best viewed large. So by all means, please click.
Update: According to this article at Philly.com, police officials estimated the crowd at 3,000, while organizers said it was closer to 6,000. Reporters on the scene estimated 5,000. Though it fell short of the 10,000 that — according to the article — organizers expected, it is still, I think, the largest political assembly I’ve been to since I moved to Philadelphia.