Home News Marchers protest Mayfair police shooting

Marchers protest Mayfair police shooting

Family and friends of Brandon Tate-Brown march down Frankford Avenue on Dec. 30. More than 100 protesters challenged the details surrounding Brown’s fatal shooting by a police officer during a traffic stop.

Relatives and friends of Brandon Tate-Brown don’t believe the official version of the events that led Philadelphia police to shoot him fatally on Dec. 15 on the 6600 block of Frankford Ave.

Authorities say that Tate-Brown, 26, was driving without headlights at about 2:45 a.m. when patrol cops stopped him. The officers spotted a gun in the car’s center console area and ordered Tate-Brown to exit the car. Authorities claim that the Frankford resident got out of the car, but then resisted the officers’ instructions and reached for the gun. One of the cops shot Tate-Brown once in the head. Police recovered the suspect’s gun, a .22-caliber pistol that was loaded with eight live rounds and had been reported stolen in July 2013. As a convicted felon, Tate-Brown was prohibited from legally possessing a gun.

During a rally and march through the streets of Mayfair on Dec. 30, more than 100 protesters challenged just about every detail of that account while portraying Tate-Brown as a reformed ex-con and another victim of police brutality, joining a list that also includes Michael Brown and Eric Garner. And they don’t believe the police department can be trusted to carry out a fair, honest investigation of the actions of its own officers.

The demonstrators are angry and frustrated. Nobody can deny that.

“I’m here where my son was killed because I need people to know, I need to know, and I’m almost certain that I won’t get the answers that I’m looking for,” said Tanya Brown-Dickerson, Tate-Brown’s mother. “I’m here peacefully. I don’t want no one to be violent, not from none of my people who are here with me. I don’t want violence coming from the other people. All I want is compassion and understanding that someone’s son is dead.”

A collection of candles and other mementos surrounding a utility pole marked the spot where the fatal shooting occurred. Demonstrators began gathering on the sidewalk there at about 4 p.m. Racial Unity USA, a locally based social activism group founded by Asa Khalif in 1994, organized the event in partnership with Tate-Brown’s family. Khalif said he didn’t know Tate-Brown personally but learned after the fatal shooting that the two were related by marriage. Racial Unity USA has been involved in other anti-brutality protests around the city.

“We stand with the family against police brutality,” Khalif told a news reporter. “Nothing has changed because he’s a relative of mine. The days of beating and killing black men in Philadelphia are over and will never come back again.”

At the shooting scene, Khalif, Brown-Dickerson and others used bullhorns to deliver positive remarks about Tate-Brown while condemning the actions of police in the case. Tate-Brown’s grandfather, Robert Brown, had returned to Philadelphia from his home in South Carolina. He said that current tensions between segments of the community and police reminded him of similar conflicts in the 1970s when violent protests occurred in the city. He predicted that authorities will have a lot of explaining to do in the coming weeks if they want to avoid trouble.

“I’ve lost a grandson who was a hard-working young man and didn’t deserve it,” Robert Brown said. “This is the straw that broke the camel’s back and (police) are going to have to step to the plate. If they continue not stepping to the plate, Philadelphia is going to have a lot of problems.”

Tate-Brown’s sister, Dominique Chappelle, said that the negative portrayals of her brother have caused additional pain for her family. Relatives don’t obscure the fact that he served five years in state prison after pleading guilty to shooting a man several times in the leg in 2007. Yet, they say, Tate-Brown committed the crime in defense of a woman who had been a beating victim.

“I hear a lot of different things about Brandon in the media and it hurts,” Chappelle said. “I really had to delete all of my social media because of the things that are being said about my brother. I know that when Brandon came home (from prison) he hit the ground running. My brother made it through five years in prison and couldn’t do more than two-and-a-half years on the streets? So who’s here to protect us? Who was there to protect Brandon? Who tells Brandon’s story?”

After the speeches, the group marched southbound on Frankford Avenue and westbound on Levick Street to the 15th Police District, where the officers involved in the shooting are assigned.

During the 20-minute march, organizers led the protesters in repeated chants of “No justice, no peace. No racist police,” along with “Whose streets? Our streets,” “Justice for Brandon Brown” and other slogans. Dozens of police on bicycles and on foot escorted the march, stopping vehicle traffic on Frankford and on Levick.

In front of the police station, demonstrators staged a “hands up, don’t shoot” chant and gesture followed by a “die-in” where they laid on the ground as if they had been shot.

“We want to let the whole Mayfair section know that we’re not going anywhere until we get justice for Brandon Tate-Brown,” Khalif announced at the station.

Police continued to escort the demonstrators as they marched northbound on Revere Street and eastbound on Unruh Avenue back to the starting point. There were no arrests and no confrontations between demonstrators and bystanders. At one point, a police commander cautioned two motorcyclists who were parked curbside on Unruh Avenue while revving their engines. The demonstration lasted about 90 minutes.

Authorities have released only preliminary findings in the case. The police department’s Homicide and Internal Affairs divisions are both investigating the case. The officer who fired the fatal shot has been assigned to desk duty pending the outcome of the probe. Authorities have not disclosed whether the case will be assigned to a grand jury for further investigation. Tate-Brown’s supporters demanded that police release any surveillance video of the shooting, claiming that a nearby business had a camera pointed toward the scene.

Khalif called on Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey to keep the public informed about progress in the investigation.

“If it is under investigation still, that needs to be said publicly,” Khalif said. “You must show respect for this family. We want justice. I do not believe the police’s initial report. There are serious holes in the report. We want answers. And we don’t trust Police Commissioner Ramsey and his organization to do it. We need an independent investigator to come in and find out what happened to Brandon Tate-Brown.” ••

Writing on the wall: Marcella Williams holds up a sign during a rally for Brandon Tate-Brown last week.

Tanya Dickerson, Tate-Brown’s mother, speaks to the crowd through a megaphone, demanding justice for her son.

Ikea Coney uses her phone to record Tate-Brown’s mother talking about her son’s death.

Searching for answers: Above, family and friends of Brandon Tate-Brown march down Frankford Avenue on Dec. 30. More than 100 protesters challenged the details surrounding Brown’s fatal shooting by a police officer during a traffic stop. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

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