Supporters of Black Lives Matter and their pro-police counterparts launched opposing demonstrations at the 15th district on Monday, almost three weeks after an officer fatally shot an allegedly armed man.
A section of Levick Street outside the 15th Police District became the front line in a simmering public dispute between supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and their pro-police counterparts on Monday.
At the height of what would’ve been the afternoon rush hour on the normally busy thoroughfare, dozens of demonstrators from both groups stood face-to-face, separated by iron barriers and a formation of bicycle-mounted police officers.
The Black Lives Matter folks did virtually all of the talking as one of their Philadelphia-area organizers, Asa Khalif, used his familiar bullhorn to emcee a series of speeches, chants and the occasional poem during a presentation that lasted for more than two hours.
It was the second such gathering at the 15th district in eight days. The same building also houses the 2nd district, Northeast Detectives and Northeast division headquarters.
BLM protesters also gathered there on June 19, 11 days after a 15th district cop shot 30-year-old David Jones fatally during a traffic stop in Feltonville. Officer Ryan Pownall was transporting a father and two children to the Special Victims Unit as part of an unrelated case when the officer allegedly saw Jones driving recklessly in the street on an off-road motorcycle. The “dirt bikes” are prohibited on public streets.
When Jones stopped his bike, Pownall allegedly stopped his patrol car nearby, approached Jones and attempted to frisk him. Jones had a loaded handgun in his waistband, police say.
Further details of the encounter remain under investigation, but police say there was a physical struggle and Pownall shot Jones twice. Jones died at a local hospital about 20 minutes later.
On Monday, a group of about 20 sign-waving BLM backers marched eastbound on Levick Street at about 6 p.m. until they reached the police line at Cardiff Street. The group gradually swelled to a maximum of about 60 people by 8 p.m.
The pro-police folks organized themselves late last week via a Facebook event page after they learned BLM supporters had been granted a two-hour permit to demonstrate. Waving American and “thin blue line” flags, while wearing Town Watch T-shirts and Patriot Guard motorcycle club colors, the police supporters began gathering at the east end of the Levick Street corridor shortly before 4 p.m.
Within an hour, there were about 50 people in the pro-police group, which mainly stood around chatting with on-duty officers and watching the BLM activities. Local Town Watch leader Barbara Rup delivered a tray of cookies to the 15th district officers.
As the two-hour BLM bullhorn session progressed, various speakers became growingly passionate in their comments, referring directly to assembled police with derogatory names and accusations of brutality. Their use of profanity over the loudspeaker became more frequent, even with numerous homes and a daycare center mere yards from the scene.
Some speakers specifically targeted African-American officers with their insults, challenging them for supporting the police instead of the “black” cause.
Much of what the BLM supporters said echoed the rhetoric following another fatal shooting involving 15th district police on Dec. 15, 2014, when an officer shot and killed Brandon Tate Brown on the 6600 block of Frankford Avenue. In that case, an officer stopped Tate Brown’s car for a traffic violation and spotted a handgun in the car’s console. When Brown, a previously convicted felon, allegedly reached for the weapon, the officer shot him.
Investigators confirmed the official account of events and cleared the officer of wrongdoing.
During Monday’s protest, one BLM speaker criticized the news media for focusing on the “negatives” about Jones, who was known as “D.J.” The speaker first insisted \ Jones did no wrong, then said \ he didn’t deserve to die “even if he was doing wrong.”
By 8:07 p.m., the BLM group was retreating westbound on Levick Street, but a woman began to scream hysterically about a block from the police line. Khalif asked his supporters to return to the protest site in a show of solidarity with the woman. The reprise lasted about five minutes before the protesters departed for good. ••
William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or email@example.com. Follow the Times on Twitter @NETimesOfficial.