Kensington community members on protests, policing, and the city budget (continued)

Volunteers with Impact Services and NKCDC help clean Kensington after a night of looting and property damage in Kensington, on June 2, 2020. (Photo by Solmaira Valerio)

Kevin Deotri, Kensington, Impact Services volunteer

What do you think of everything that’s going on in the neighborhood and the protests?

As a community, we just want to do whatever we can to help out. I hope to see that the people who are asking to be heard finally get heard and that the people who need to [listen finally] listen, and we start doing things to make changes — quick and big — and include everybody in the decisions.

What outcome(s) from these protests do you hope to see in your community? 

They could start by taking down the Rizzo statue. Then they could move on to taking some money that they had put towards the police force and putting it into the Black communities that need it. Making sure that the kids are getting the education that they deserve and people are getting healthcare and jobs in these Black communities first. And then we can start thinking about moving forward with the rest of the communities.

(Editor’s Note: The Rizzo statue was taken down after this interview.)

What are the issues that you would like the Kenney administration, city council, and the rest of the city government to focus on in the upcoming budget to help your community?

I feel that their response has been exactly what we expected and it’s been exactly the problem. I understand that they are people too and that they’re trying to keep people safe, but the way they are responding is not working. They need to change things.


Rebecca Fabiano, Kensington, Fab Youth Philly founder and president

What do you think of everything that’s going on in the neighborhood and the protests? 

In the last three weeks, we’ve seen some horrible atrocities committed against Black people. Whether it’s calling the police and falsely accusing Black people or killing them in their own home. And there’s been an immediate reaction. 

The protests are responding to those things. Those things are a result of years and years of distrust in the community and from communities that have been overlooked, segregated, and decimated by structural racism. 

Combine that with the fact that we’ve all been home for three months, and we’re in the middle of a global pandemic with people’s health at risk. People are unemployed. 

The looting is a reaction, specifically to the feeling that people don’t have anything. There’s no sense that there will be anything soon. We’ve got very poor leadership from the president’s office. 

It’s layered. It’s nuanced. The protest and the looting are not connected, but they are responding to similar atrocities, injustices, and inequities.

A volunteer with Fab Youth Philly helps clean up along Kensington Avenue on June 2, 2020. (Photo by Solmaira Valerio)

Jessica Hoffman, Kensington, NAC program associate from New Kensington CDC

What do you think of everything that’s going on in the neighborhood and the protests?

I don’t know how I feel right now. It’s a lot going on. [I] want to do something because I can’t do absolutely nothing and sit around. This is our organization’s clean-up so obviously I’m going to be a part of it. I think that’s why a lot of people came out. They’re feeling they need something to do. They need to do something. They just can’t sit and watch all of this unfold like with the pandemic and all the other stuff going on too. 

What outcome(s) from these protests do you hope to see in your community? 

They need to support the communities and just listen to what the community is saying. Move with the community.


Herb Husky, Kensington, resident 

What do you think of everything that’s going on in the neighborhood and the city in regards to the following: peaceful protests, damage to businesses, looting, and the police response to protests, damages, or looting?

As far as the looting, people need to stop that. They’re hurting the businesses around them. They need to at least be mindful. Like the pharmacies, they didn’t have to do that.

I didn’t riot and loot, but for the people who did, I do understand where they’re coming from. But you still have to be mindful. You have to live around here everyday. It’s already bad because of the quarantine and a lot of stuff isn’t open. 

In light of current events, what are the issues that you would like the Kenney administration, city council, and the rest of city government to focus on in the upcoming budget to help your community?

There’s a lot of benefits for people who join programs, like you have to get locked up to get good benefits out here and go to a good job. They should bring more programs for troubled youth — without getting in trouble.

They should create programs for young African Americans, who are trying to not turn to the streets, instead of getting [arrested] and then getting referred to a program. 

[They could offer people] $50 a day to come around here in a little group and sweep and clean. Little stuff like that. So we don’t have to turn to the streets for $50 or $20 or whatever the case may be. 

If you’re not locked up, you wouldn’t know about the programs and what they do have to offer for you. They have to advertise it more. They’re advertising the wrong stuff. 


Jill Moyer, Kensington, resident

What do you think of everything that’s going on in the neighborhood and the city in regards to the following: peaceful protests, damage to businesses, looting, and the police response to protests, damages, or looting?

I didn’t see any peaceful protests. I saw a lot of horrible protests. 

The damage to businesses is horrible. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever why they’re doing it. They’re saying it’s because of George Floyd being killed, but why would stealing and whatever happen? It’s just an excuse for a bunch of [people] to go around and steal and sell things to make money for drugs. That’s what it comes down to. It’s an excuse. 

The looting is absolutely horrible. People work their asses off to have these businesses and look at what’s happened. People around here say, “It’s okay. They have insurance.” But it doesn’t matter. These are peoples’ dreams and hopes and they’re being crushed by a senseless death that shouldn’t have happened to begin with. But what does his death have to do with stealing and destroying stores? They set Rent-A-Center on fire.

The police response was horrible. It was [about] 45 minutes before they even got to the [Villa, a shoe store]. I understand they had a lot going on in Center City but… when the police officers were here, people just kept breaking in and breaking in and going to different places. [Police] weren’t boarding anything up. They weren’t making any efforts to close up the places for people not to get in again. People just kept getting in and getting in. Very understaffed. 

A business owner repairs his store’s window on Kensington Avenue on June 2, 2020. (Photo by Solmaira Valerio)

Solomon Thomas, Kensington, community member, Center City restaurant manager, and protestor

What do you think of everything that’s going on in the neighborhood and the protests? 

The protests are largely peaceful, and I’m happy to see that. I want more of that to happen peacefully. I want to see more support and solidarity for members of our community. 

What outcome(s) from these protests do you hope to see in your community?

The thing is, even if laws are enacted immediately, it’ll take some time for the feeling to be felt among the people who have been marginalized. 

In terms of the Black Lives Matter movement, a big positive thing would be to enforce some new requirement for training police officers dealing with these scenarios. A lot of police officers are inadequately trained when it comes to knowing how to approach this. It’s hard for them to take the stance they need to because they’re not taught how to by their organization. 

That’s something I’d like to see immediately if possible. And I’d like to see more solidarity from the police officers by siding with the protests that are peaceful and not inciting violence. 


JT Thompson, Kensington, resident

What do you think of everything that’s going on in the neighborhood and the city in regards to the following: peaceful protests, damage to businesses, looting, and the police response to protests, damages, or looting?

Police disproportionately treat [Black people] differently than our counterparts. That’s another thing you got to get to the root of it. There was a story that came out about over 300 police officers in Philadelphia were all on this racist chat site. Come on, man. And they’re still on the force. 

(Editor’s Note: Thompson is referring to news stories that were published in 2019, citing a database called the Plain View Project which identified more than 300 Philadelphia policers to have posted offensive or racist remarks on Facebook. After an internal investigation, the police department planned to fire 15 officers but 11 of them retired or resigned before being formally dismissed, according to an article from Billy Penn.)  

What we need to do is not only fire them. Mayor [Keisha Lance] Bottoms in Atlanta, she just fired some police officers…. Let’s go a step further. [They] probably don’t deserve a pension any longer. That needs to be looked into as well. 

So that’s what I’m saying, you got to get to the root of the problem.

(Editor’s Note: Thompson is referring to incidents in Atlanta, where Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called for the firing of Garrett Rolfe, a now-fired white police officer who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, on June 12. Four other police officers were fired and charged for use of force during protests on May 30.)

What solutions do you hope to see in your community or in general after these protests?

I just moved here in January, and I can tell Kensington supports white people. They support everything but Black people. 

I have not seen one Black business in Kensington. I see a huge support, even politically for white folks and for people who are of Hispanic origin. There’s no support for African Americans in this entire area of Philadelphia. 

I’ve seen that just from moving here. I used to live in the Northeast. I lived in South Philly. I lived in West Philly. I’ve lived all over. So now I’m over here in Kensington, and I’ve lived in other areas of Philly. Over here, there’s no support for Black people, and we’re treated differently. These businesses treat us differently too. 

That’s why I’ll be out of here very soon and moving to North Carolina. I’m trying to get up out of here because I’ve had enough with Mayor Kenney. I’ve had enough with City Council. Nobody’s doing their job.

How would you describe the policing in your community, and what would you like to see in the police department moving forward? 

In this area, the police suck. I lived over by Arrott Transportation Center. I lived over there in 2018. They had so much police over there — to the point where they were able to stop people that were selling marijuana. Over here, are you kidding me? [People are] able to do whatever they want to do over here as far as drugs go. Over where I come from, my friends have gotten arrested. It’s a shame that over here [people] get to just do whatever they want to do and just get away with it. That’s another reason why I want to leave.


Jamie Ward, Kensington, community member 

What do you think of everything that’s going on in the neighborhood and the protests?

I’m not from this country. I’m from Canada. I grew up in the Netherlands. I never experienced what racism was until I moved here, and I was like, “Holy s—, this is backwards.” It’s so outdated. It’s so backwards. It’s so unfair. It hurts, and it hurts to hear them hurting.

What outcome(s) from these protests do you hope to see in your community? 

All of our people’s small businesses [have burned] down here. [People were] looting [and] breaking into people’s houses for days. I feel like Kensington is sort of swept under the rug in this whole situation. I hope that the destruction enables people to step in.

I hope that people hear this. I hope that everybody hears this and that we can actually start to make steps forward to end the huge culture of racial division.


Ralph Whitfield, Kensington, resident and community worker

What do you think of everything that’s going on in the neighborhood and the city in regards to the following: peaceful protests, damage to businesses, looting, and the police response to protests, damages, or looting?

The protests in regards to Mr. Floyd and other people that preceded him are necessary. The peaceful protests, minus the violence, are very necessary. If we remain silent — [when] I’m talking about we, I’m talking about humanity which includes everybody — and continue to be silent, we will continue to get the same thing. That can’t be tolerated any longer. I think that part is over, finally. This generation here is less tolerant than former generations. They see and feel differently. 

There’s a new surge of energy now. It’s uneasy; sometimes it’s a state of limbo. The protests are very necessary, minus the violence, and should continue until all humanity receives justice and equality across the board. 

What outcome(s) from these protests do you hope to see in your community?

I would like to see harmony. I don’t believe everything is going to be the same. We’re never going to return to the same. It’s a healing process. I think as human beings we can overcome some of the difficulties. I think we can achieve peace and harmony amongst ourselves. I’m looking forward to peace and harmony across the board amongst ourselves.

What are the issues that you would like the Kenney administration, city council, and the rest of city government to focus on in the upcoming budget to help your community?

We have everything from addiction to homelessness. The homelessness problem breeds crimes [and] increases the status of crime. Homelessness is almost synonymous with addiction. Now, everybody that is experiencing homelessness is not addicted to some type of drug but a great deal of them are, especially in the Kensington area where there’s a heavier concentration [of] homelessness and addiction. If you focus on addiction and homelessness, that’s a big step towards making positive changes.


To read more Community Responses, click here.


Editors: Claire Wolters, Zari Tarazona, Siani Colón / Designer: Henry Savage

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