Philadelphia — “What the next steps in building resistance to police brutality will be” was the topic of a historic town hall meeting here on Dec. 2, as around 400 people filled the sanctuary at the Calvary United Methodist Church. The event was organized by the Ferguson to Philly Emergency Response Network.
The gathering included many organizers of and participants in protests held a week earlier, after the announcement that a grand jury in St. Louis County, Mo., had failed to indict former Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, for the murder of Black teenager Michael Brown.
It was diverse in a multitude of ways, not only in ethnicity and age — and including students, workers and community members — but also for the number of activist groups that turned out to work together. These included the International Action Center, which hosted the meeting; the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal; Black Lives Matter; the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST); People Utilizing Real Power (PURP); MOVE; Workers World Party; the Black Youth Project; Food Not Bombs; National Moment of Silence Philadelphia; the Party for Socialism and Liberation; 15Now Philadelphia; Decarcerate PA; Sankofa Community Empowerment; Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation (SOUL); the Up Against the Law Collective; Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild; plus students from Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Haverford College and Swarthmore College.
The event was co-chaired by Charlotte Harris from the IAC, Gabriel Bryant from Sankofa Community Empowerment, and Temple University students Paul Cange and Sabrina Sample, both from PURP. Representatives of the Philadelphia Student Union, Youth United for Change, SOUL and FIST all spoke.
Delphine Matthews with the group Direction Voice and Light described how police in Chester, Pa., murdered her son, Frank McQueen, in June 2014. Community organizer Diane Johnson described bringing people on her West Philadelphia block out for an impromptu rally on Nov. 24, when she heard about the Ferguson verdict. Taylor Johnson from Black Lives Matter recognized the number of clergy in the room giving their support.
After the initial open mike session, participants broke into working groups to take up plans for future protests, outreach, media, demands and messaging, legal support, education and healing.
A follow-up meeting is scheduled for Dec. 16.
Describing the meeting on Facebook, Keon Liberato with the group Put People First PA wrote: “Tonight’s town hall meeting on Ferguson reminded me of the absolute necessity for rebuilding our various movements in a way that each of the movements of the oppressed social classes in our society and world can feed off each other and reinforce each other. We need to rebuild the labor movement, we need to rebuild the revolutionary liberation movements, from Black Liberation to Palestinian Liberation. We need to rebuild our revolutionary feminist movement. All of these movements … their revolutionary side needs to be rebuilt in with the others in mind. Only together with the strengths of each united can we stop the looming disaster ahead of us.”