Why Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla was at a South Philly ‘White Lives Matter’ rally

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Updated: 4:30 p.m.

The Philadelphia city councilman who was featured on Gawker this weekend for attending a rally where “white lives matter” was yelled through a megaphone was apparently invited to the rally in South Philly by a Philadelphia Police captain.

Councilman Mark Squilla’s Chief of Staff Anne Kelly told Billy Penn Monday that the councilman contends that the South Philly rally — which he was invited to by a district police captain and community members — “was not racially motivated.”

Philadelphia Police spokeswoman Tanya Little confirmed that 3rd District Captain Frank Milillo spoke with Squilla about attending the event.

The rally, which drew between 150 and 200 people, took place at Fourth and Wolf streets last Tuesday in the 3rd Police District and was covered only by TV stations 6ABC and NBC10. 

“The funny thing is,” she said, “is that this happened last Tuesday, and it was four days later that it became news from a blogger who had a headline that didn’t really have much to do with the story.”

The post to which she refers, titled “Philadelphia City Councilman Attends ‘White Lives Matter’ Rally,” detailed Squilla’s attendance at a rally of about 200 people in South Philly on Tuesday that was protesting supposed police inaction on an assault on local women. Kelley added that Squilla’s office is still discussing how best to respond to the controversy surrounding his attendance.

Apparently, signs were held at the rally reading “White Women’s Lives Matter,” and “one demonstrator is shown saying ‘white lives matter’ into a megaphone,” according to Gawker.

When Billy Penn brought up this to Kelly, she continued to assert that the councilman feels the rally didn’t have racial undertones and was meant to improve on police and community relations.

Squilla, speaking to Philly Mag today, said he would go to the event again if given the opportunity.

“…nobody was talking about race until this reporter came up to me and said, ‘What do you think about the racial attacks?’ What racial attacks?” Squilla said. “Obviously some people were fueling some type of racial problems in there. Because the incident is between black girls and a white girl, it must be racial. That’s not what this rally was about, though.”

It’s still unclear who, specifically, organized the rally. The community group Taking Our South Philadelphia Streets Back has indicated that while it shared details of the rally, it didn’t organize it. Gawker reported that a resident named Jack Owens — a now-former Facebook user with some racist postings — was promoting the event online.

Squilla represents the First District of Philadelphia, which covers the waterfront from South Philadelphia to Port Richmond and includes parts of Center City. He was first elected to Council in 2011.

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