Don Garvey thought maybe 10 to 15 of his friends and family might show up for a rally he staged to show support for Philadelphia police officers.
It succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, as some 400 mostly Northeast residents braved cold winter weather and flocked to a small square in the Mayfair neighborhood on Friday night. They held signs, shouted out to passing motorists who honked in response and voiced their support for police officers.
Mothers brought babies in strollers and one man held a large American flag. A sign on one of the strollers read, “I support the police. They protect me.” About 20 uniformed officers stood on the fringe of the crowd and watched over the rally.
Garvey, 33, organized the rally as part of a national police respect day. Asked whether the larger than expected turnout was a reaction to the protests following grand juries clearing police in the deaths of black men in Ferguson, Mo., and on Staten Island, he said, “It might be. It might be.”
“Some kids are growing up today looking over their shoulder at the cops thinking, ‘Is something bad going to happen?’” said Garvey, a heating and air conditioning worker from Mayfair.
“I think that has a lot to do with the national media,” he said.
Garvery said the Mayfair rally had “nothing to do” with the fact that a Philadelphia man, Brandon Tate-Brown, 26, was shot and killed by police about four blocks from the event. Police said he struggled with them and had reached for a gun after he was stopped for a traffic violation.
The police officer involved in the shooting has been put on administrative duty, pending an investigation, which is department policy.
Police said Tate-Brown had served time in jail after pleading guilty in 2008 to aggravated assault charges in the revenge shooting of two men sitting on a porch, according to report in the Inquirer.
Garvey said he first put up a Facebook page announcing the rally last Tuesday, the day after the Tate-Brown shooting.
Overall, however, the number of deaths in Philadelphia attributed to police shootings is down sharply, four so far this year compared to 12 last year.
According to statistics on the Philadelphia Police web site, the number of police shooting in which suspects were wounded has also fallen sharply, 13 through September of this year, compared to 22 in all of 2013.
“Over the past five years, we have put our officers where they need to be – in the most violent areas, during the most violent times,” the department’s site said. “We believe that this approach accounts for the reductions in crime across our city.”
“Our relationship with citizens across our entire city is generally very positive,” the Police Department said in a statement to Metro.
Some at the Friday night rally were actually police officers themselves, but not in uniform – Mayfair is the home of many police officers.
Brian Tait, 41, a school teacher from Mayfair, suggested in his remarks to the crowd that people are overall frustrated by their relationship with city government.
“We pay our taxes,” he told the gathering, “And we get treated like crap.”
“I don’t see a councilman here,” he said. “We’ve had enough, we’ve had enough.”
“It’s bad enough to put up with what we have to put up with, but we draw the line at criticizing our police officers,” he said.
“We’re the silent majority,” he said, adding, “Enough is enough.”
“We don’t block streets and we don’t loot,” he added. “There is not going to be one crime committed tonight on Frankford Avenue, I guarantee it, not by anybody here.”
Tait’s father was a police officer, as is his brother.
Mayfair resident Brian Williams, 35, a contractor, said he thinks police officers have been taking a lot of criticism.
“They are not terrorists as some people are claiming,” he said.
“They didn’t do anything wrong in that incident,” he said, referring to the Mayfair shooting on Dec. 15.
“They are only guilty of doing their jobs,” he said.
Tanya Brown, the dead man’s mother, could not be reached for comment, but she is quoted on a leading African-American news site, The Root.
“Brandon was a beautiful and spirited young man,” Brown said in a Root article. “All he wanted was to laugh and have fun. He didn’t want to die. He was no thug or “gangsta,” whatever they’re trying to call him. My son had so much love in him, so much joy.”