The 2016 Mummers parade will be the first ever to include divisions of dancers of black and Latino heritage, as part of a move by the organization to widen its embrace of the city’s diverse culture.
But local Black Lives Matter activists say that won't alter their plans to disrupt the famed celebration.
“This is not the time to celebrate,” said Erica Mines, an organizer with the Philly Coalition for R.E.A.L. (Racial, Economic And Legal) Justice, which is behind the planned protest. “People are being shot by police, and whole cities of white folks don’t want to acknowledge that this is even a problem.”
The protest is scheduled for 1 p.m. at City Hall where the Mummers performers are judged as they pass.
It's intended to draw attention to police brutality issues, as well as to protest what Mines called the Mummers' "history of racism."
Mummers in Center City preparing for the parade dispute Mines assertions about the organization.
Tom Ardecki, captain in the Golden Sunrise fancy club, said the protest "shouldn’t affect us at all; I don’t see what Black Lives Matter has to do with the Mummers. Our club has black, Puerto Rican, Jewish people. We have everybody in the club. Now you have the new Philly division," a group aimed at broadening the diversity of the parade.
Mines said that almost the entire Mummers event — from the participation of the Wenches Brigade (one performer was spotted with a “Wench Lives Matter” sign last year), to the rampant public drinking and urination that is part and parcel of the parade — make it an exclusionary and divisive event.
“Black and brown people are not allowed to party and drink and be unruly and openly drunk in public without being harassed by the police, even if you’re homeless, without facing incarceration, without being mistreated, without being looked down upon, as the degenerates of society,” Mines said.
A spokesman for the Mummers organization declined to comment on the protest.
Leo Dignam, deputy commissioner for programs and parade director for the Phildelphia Parks & Recreation Department, said "we are aware of the rumor about a potential protest at the Mummers Parade.
"Naturally we hope that such an action is just a rumor – we would prefer that all parade spectators and participants come together in good faith and fellowship to welcome the New Year and the new spirit of cultural and ethnic diversity that the Mummers are introducing.
"Should there be an unauthorized protest, police and Homeland Security are prepared to deal with such an eventuality. Beyond that, we cannot comment on security preparations for major events such as this."
Some apparent Mummers supporters posted threatening remarks against the activists on the Facebook event page for the protest.
One person, later identified as a city prisons officer, posting “I hope you all get beat the f--- up, f---in jokers.” (The comments were later deleted, but other users copied them and re-posted them as images).
Another wrote, “don't be f—g stupid do not start something when there are thousands of children and families there. there is a time and place for everything this is not one don't start the new year off being d—s.”
Mines said she is not concerned about how people will react to the protest.
“To be honest I expect white, drunk, racist people to be white, drunk, racist people. I don’t expect anything other than that,” she said. “They're no different than what Dylann Roof was. They were brought up that way.”
As for the black and Latino performers who will be joining the Mummers for the first time this year, Mines said the protest is not aimed at them.
“We're not protesting them because they never had a stake until now. It’s okay for them to be a part of it,” she said. “There are black children, too, who like to go out and see the festivities of the Mummers because of the glitter and glam, without knowing the history of it. We want to be out there, too.”