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A peaceful march to drive out fear in Fishtown

The man they call Pastor John marched south down Broad Street, microphone in hand, all the way from Olney, where his church, St. James United Methodist Church, is located. Behind him followed a white pickup truck with a PA system strapped into the bed, blasting out the sound of his voice.

The demonstration wrapped up in the middle of the intersection of Frankford and Girard Avenues.

Pastor John Brice was “very intentional” when he made a left turn onto Girard Avenue on Tuesday evening.

“We knew exactly where we were,” he said.

The man they call Pastor John marched south down Broad Street, microphone in hand, all the way from Olney, where his church, St. James United Methodist Church, is located. Behind him followed a white pickup truck with a PA system strapped into the bed, blasting out the sound of his voice.

“It started out with just doing a prayer walk on Broad Street,” Brice told the Star the day after the march. “But then once we heard about how there were more protests going on in Fishtown, we made a left on Girard Avenue.”

Pastor John Brice of Olney-based St. James United Methodist Church led the march.

The march happened the day after a vigilante group of mostly white men armed with baseball bats allegedly threatened and harassed protesters under the guise of protecting the 26th Police District’s building. For some Fishtown residents, the march was symbolic of cleansing the neighborhood of hateful rhetoric that had plagued it the night before.

“I feel like if the people with baseball bats came over and this didn’t happen the next day, then they would’ve won,” said a Fishtown resident named Amelia who participated in the march.

But Brice told the Star that he didn’t come to Fishtown to win anything.

“It wasn’t our goal to win or to beat up or to shame someone else,” he said. “Our goal was to change hearts.”

Brice called the peace march part of a “grassroots effort.”

“It was people coming together all for black lives,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that all lives don’t matter, but right now the black lives are being attacked by white supremacy.”

Pastor John allowed those in their houses to join in on the fun. “Black lives matter,” this resident shouted.

As Fishtown resident Audrey Agnew walked home after the march, she felt inspired to do more.

“This s— has just come to a head, and I feel like checking everybody in my life,” she said. “I feel like you gotta show up for your people. White people have to come for white people. It’s not black people’s job to call out white people. It’s white people’s job.”

As Brice led the march through Fishtown, he offered his microphone to those standing outside their front doors in solidarity with protesters so they could repeat the refrain of the evening: Black lives matter. As the march went on and on, more people joined in.

As the demonstration wrapped up in the middle of the intersection of Frankford and Girard avenues, Brice had everybody who gathered take a knee. Two of the six nearby Philadelphia police officers on bikes joined in the kneeling, much to the crowd’s delight.

“We can’t get rid of the police, we just gotta change the hearts of the police,” Brice told the crowd of a couple hundred people before him. “We gotta change the heart of Fishtown.”

View more photos from the march below:

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