Tonight, the festivities at Christmas Village in LOVE Park were set to include an authentic German lantern parade. Visitors were encouraged to bring homemade lanterns, oftentimes a simple paper bag with a battery-operated candle or light inside it, and participate in a “parade of lights around LOVE Park and Center City. The event was to conclude at the Christmas Village stage “with a sing-a-long led by children from East Passyunk’s Alphabet Academy Daycare and a free concert by the The Philly POPS Festival Brass.”

All was supposed to go off without a hitch—that is until organizers caught wind of a protest planned to take place simultaneous to the holiday gathering. They abruptly snuffed out the scheduled light ceremony.

In an email sent late yesterday afternoon, Philly public relations maven Kory Aversa of Aversa PR explained that the lantern parade was canceled because organizers were “concerned with traffic and access to LOVE Park, as well as potential logistical problems of large numbers of people attempting to occupy the same space for different purposes.” When Philly Now asked for comment, Aversa sent along a link to a Tumblr site that aggregates current protests going on nationwide.

On that site, a simple image macro reads:

5:00 PM
#BlackLivesMatter #ICantBreathe

Now, many of the protests going on nationwide are impromptu and organized from the bottom-up. Initially started in response to the fatal police shooting of unarmed 18-year-0ld Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the demonstrations have started to grow larger and address what many activists consider the continued genocide of people of color by institutions of power in the United States, including the police.

The hashtags #ICantBreathe and #ThisStopsToday have become synonymous with the growing movement against what activists consider police brutality against people of color, in particular black Americans. Those hashtags specifically reference New York City man Eric Garner, an unarmed black man stopped several months ago for selling loose cigarettes, or “loosies,” on Staten Island. In Garner’s case, an officer used a chokehold against Garner and he later died.

“Loosies” are typically sold for around $1 to passersby who want to have a cigarette, but don’t have the money or inclination to purchase a whole pack of cigarettes. It’s a common practice, both on the street and in many corner bodegas, in most cities nationwide

During the chokehold, Garner is heard repeatedly pleading, in a cell phone video taken of the event, “I can’t breathe!” The coroner in New York City ruled Garner’s death a homicide, but a grand jury convened refused to indict police officers for his death.

As the protests have gained momentum, celebrities, including many athletes, have started wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts, apparently in solidarity with the protest movement.

Whether or not tonight’s planned protest at LOVE Park, in the midst of Christmas Village, will be as sizable or disruptive as last week’s “Philly Die-In” and subsequent march to City Hall remains to be seen. Activists and groups, no matter how large or organized, may submit forms to the Tumblr site, which calls itself the “Ferguson National Response Network.”

It does seem, though, that Christmas Village organizers at least paid attention to last week’s protest.

The latter half of that demonstration included disrupting Philadelphia’s holiday tree lighting ceremony. Throughout it, protestors pleaded with performers to not take the stage, and when they did, protestors booed and chanted at the musicians, including a children’s choir. And, the city’s “the show must go on” mentality that day created a tense situation for everyone involved, particularly when city organizers blared festive Christmas carols over a public address system.

Still, the city failed to drown out protestors—who clearly meant what they were shouting: No justice, no peace.

About The Author

Contributing columnist

Josh Kruger is an award-winning writer and commentator in Philadelphia. His @PhillyWeekly column, “The Uncomfortable Whole,” took the First Place Spotlight Award for weekly newspaper commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists in both 2014 and 2015 and the Second Place Award for weekly newspaper commentary in the U.S. and Canada from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia in 2014; and, the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association presented him with the Edith Hughes Emerging Journalist Award in 2015. Along with his column, Josh blogs daily for PW on various topics including queer culture and news, mass transit, politics, crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, civil liberties, activism, media and everything else Philly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.