As a crowd gathered for a Thursday morning announcement on new parks and completed construction projects along the Ben Franklin Parkway at the Philadelphia Free Library’s Main Branch, activists seized the opportunity to have their voices heard at a gathering of the city’s elected officials.
Just moments after a man dressed in a William Shakespeare costume helped announce the new Shakespeare Park at the library, Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif stepped to the front of the crowd in the lobby of the library, letting his voice echo across the building's marble floor.
Khalif and others came seeking answers in the fatal June 8 shooting of David Jones. Jones, who was reportedly armed, was killed by an officer of the city’s 15th police district – shot once in the back and once in the buttock – as he ran from a scuffle with the officer after being pulled over on his dirt bike.
“The people must hold politicians accountable,” said Khalif. “His name was David Jones. His life mattered.”
Khalif stole the spotlight for several minutes. When officers of the Philadelphia Police arrived and moved to confront the activist, Mayor Jim Kenney intervened, shaking his head "no" and motioning them away, in a move that Khalif said he appreciated.
“Thank God we have a mayor who took a stand today and told that pig to get out,” said Khalif, after the mayor moved officers away.
During the impromptu rally, Isaac Gardner, who has been the lead organizer of Justice for David Jones rallies and who described himself as a representative of Jones’ family, took Khalif’s bullhorn to lament the lack of information that the dead man’s family has gotten since the 30-year-old Jones was killed by a police officer.
“He was shot twice in the back. He’s dead now,” said Gardner. “Let the family know they aren’t alone in this.”
After a few moments, the activists left, but not before announcing that they will hold a listening session on Thursday night, which plans to include members of the family of David Jones and a representative of the Department of Justice. That event will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 1414 S. Penn Sq.
After the men left the building, Mayor Kenney said that he appreciated the fact that we live in a country, and city, that supports a person’s right to protest.
“I think that’s what makes this country what it is and what makes this city what it is,” he said.
He also noted that the investigation into Jones’ death is ongoing.
A preliminary police report said a loaded 9mm was recovered from Jones. But one alleged witness to the shooting claims Jones was not armed when he fled, and that he had dropped the gun in the dirt near his feet before running. That account remains unconfirmed. The case is under review, and the department is not commenting on the shooting.
The activists continued to chant outside the library for several minutes before departing. Khalif described this event as the latest in a "week of rage," which has also seen Khalif and Gardner protest on Monday at the Managing Director's office and at the meeting of the Police Advisory Commission, as well as inside City Hall on Wednesday while candidates for interim district attorney were interviewed.