Updated July 5
In the birthplace of America, the Fourth of July is never boring. Before the main Welcome America concert even kicked off on the Ben Franklin Parkway, Independence Day 2019 in Philly brought orchestrated marches, carefree celebrations, aerial acrobatics and activist rallies that included planned civil disobedience.
Thirty-three protesters were detained by police after they formed a human chain to block the Salute to America parade from reaching Independence Mall.
Cited for “obstructing a highway,” according to the Inquirer, the protesters were with around 300 other people as part of the Never Again Action, organized nationally by Jewish leaders in response to the U.S. government’s treatment of immigrants and refugees.
“We learned during the Holocaust how critical it was to building solidarity with other communities,” said Tenara Calem, a Jewish American who lives in Philadelphia, in an emailed statement.
The group gathered at the ICE office around 10 a.m. with other activist allies in the call for the Trump administration to close the border camps. They then marched to the Historic District to intersect with the official parade.
Though there were no tanks like in Washington D.C., the Philly parade did feature some U.S. military and veterans.
It also featured a 190-foot-long “Canvas of America” comprising flags from 195 different nations, as well as floats from various other groups, like the Filipino-American Society of America, and a band representing Trinidad & Tobago.
Plenty of familiar and unorthodox characters also participated, from Ben Franklin to Star Wars cosplayers to drumline queens.
After the parade, attention shifted to the annual Party on the Parkway, which featured zip lines, dance troupes and stilt walkers.
For the first time this year, Welcome America organizers fenced in the whole festival with a loose row of bike racks.
The semi-formal enclosure pulled off a pretty neat trick. It kept the block party’s accessible vibe — the entrance checkpoints were rarely, if ever, enforced — while allowing people to roam freely even after they’d picked up a drink at one of the bar tents. (Pa. liquor licenses require a defined service area for alcohol.)
Entertainment also came in the form of facepainting, carnival games, ziplining and photo booths.
Several dozen food trucks and stands lined the boulevard, offering everything from cheesesteaks and funnel cake to arepas, jerk BBQ and gelato.
Attendees kept cool with misting fans, makeshift sprinklers, and beneath Wawa Welcome America caps.
By 2:30 p.m., trash cans overflowed and spirits were high as many made their way towards the big stage for the 7 p.m. concert.