There was a strong showing at Philadelphia Police headquarters on Friday for a protest calling for a response to the hundreds of city officers allegedly linked to hateful Facebook posts.
Roughly 200 people showed up at “the Roundhouse” at 8th and Race for the rally, led by WURD Radio host and columnist Solomon Jones. They wanted action to be taken against the officers, who were identified in a database compiled by the Plain View Project. Some of the posts flagged by the group were overtly racist, Islamophobic or generally violent, while others were less blatantly offensive.
Of the more than 300 officers identified, over a third had been previously named in federal lawsuits over police brutality, a BuzzFeed analysis found. Several were also already involved in Internal Affairs investigations.
So far, 10 of the officers have been relegated to desk duty. Police Commissioner Richard Ross announced Thursday that the entire 6,500-member force will undergo anti-bias training.
The protesters appeared unsatisfied with that response. The group’s demand on Friday was simple: They wanted all the Philly cops named in the database to be taken off duty — potentially permanently, unless they underwent anti-bias training and were determined not to be prejudiced against any city residents.
“We want all 328 active officers who have put offensive and racist Facebook posts, we want them off the streets right now,” Jones said to attendees. “Those who should be fired, we want them fired.”
“Get ’em out!” protestors responded.
For some, participation in the rally was personal. Kevin Alexander, a black man, said he often worries that he’ll be a victim of police brutality. When he heard about the Facebook posts, it intensified his worst fears.
“They’re the ones supposed to be serving and protecting, and they’re walking around with all types of secret animosities toward other people,” Alexander said. “That’s not fair, and it’s scary to me.”
“I’m walking down the street, and I could get shot in my back just for being black and having my hand in my pocket,” he added.
All the while, the group of protestors was flanked on either side by on-duty officers. There were blockades in front of the steps at Police HQ, and a dozen cops lined the street and the entrance to the building.
A few elected officials showed support, too — though not many. Philly state Reps. Stephen Kinsey and Jordan Harris turned up at the protest, telling the crowd that they wrote a letter to the Commissioner Ross requesting he take some form of action.
Shelly Stewart, a Germantown resident, is on board. She said she wants PPD to release a list of the names of all the officers who were found to post offensive content.
“I just feel like the Police Department has failed the community,” Stewart said. “I would like to see action happen.”