Mayoral Candidate Diop Olugbala Leads Anti-Curfew Campaign

By Michael Alan Goldberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 13 | Posted Aug. 23, 2011

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“Uncle Tom trio”: Demonstrators say Mayor Nutter and his cohorts are guilty of racializing crime.

Photo by Michael Alan Goldberg

Bullhorn in hand, 34-year-old Diop Olugbala—the tall, thin, resolute leader of the Philadelphia chapter of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement and, as of Aug. 11, independent mayoral candidate—made it clear it wasn’t just happenstance that the corner of Broad and South streets was the gathering point last Saturday night for a protest against the city’s recently instituted youth curfew in Center City. “When the Phillies won the World Series, right where we standing, white kids were running up and down, turning over cars, tearing down street lamps, but you didn’t hear a press conference come from Michael Nutter like this specific attack being waged against African youth,” shouted Olugbala, who’s running under his birth name, Wali Rahman.

“That’s right!” someone in the crowd of about 60 protesters circled around Olugbala—split evenly between blacks and whites—yelled out.

Some applauded. Others hoisted brightly colored signs: “African Youth Are NOT Criminals!”; “White People Demand An End To The Jim Crow Curfew”; “Phila Police Are The Flash Mob.”

Characterizing the recent youth-mob violence that’s led to the curfew as noble resistance to “the violence of poverty,” Olugbala gestured toward City Hall, and then at the dozen or so bicycle cops lined up across the street, reinforced by more officers in police cruisers and vans stationed along the block. “They know these youth have the capability and potential to get organized and overturn this rotten, filthy system,” he said. “We defend these youth. They’re not a flash mob.”

The protest—which got under way half an hour before the 9 p.m. curfew was set to be enforced, and included members of Uhuru, the Philadelphia Coalition of the Heart and others—was part of the Black is Back Coalition’s “International Day of Action Against the Wars on Africa and African People.”

Demonstrators unfurled a banner with images of Nutter, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and District Attorney Seth Williams behind bars with the word “Guilty!” stamped across each of their faces, and “The real Flashmob is in City Hall!” written underneath.

“You have here what we call ‘the Uncle Tom trio,’” said Olugbala.

One after another, protesters grabbed the bullhorn to shout their grievances.

“They can spend $56,000 to pay overtime to the pigs [to enforce the curfew] ... but they can’t give a damn dime to our schools, but they gonna arrest our children?” one woman hollered. “Hell no, Michael Nutter, your ass gotta go and this curfew needs to go.”

Harris Daniels, Northeast regional representative of the African Peoples’ Solidarity Committee, implored other white people to join the cause. “We’re taking a stand with this march, not only against the curfew policy but also against a system that criminalizes and locks up African youth and tells us that we’re supposed to be afraid of an 11-year-old,” said Daniels. “We reject that notion. They can’t just count on us to go along with the program because they don’t care about us, either.”

As protesters spoke, ringed by news cameras, passers-by stopped to see what was going on. Gregory Lee, 28, holding a bag of leftovers from Johnny Rockets as he walked toward his South Philly apartment, had mixed feelings about the curfew.

“I don’t condone the violence, [kids] shouldn’t be runnin’ up and beating up on random people,” said Lee. “But people gettin’ shot and killed every day out here,” he continued. “They worryin’ about people gettin’ rolled on? Somebody gets sucker punched walking home from work and this is what happens. Forget Center City … go across Washington Avenue and worry about all them other neighborhoods where real shit happens.”

A little past 9 p.m., Olugbala and his fellow demonstrators began swiftly marching east along South Street, chanting slogans.

“We need schools, not the curfew!”

“Fight for teen jobs, not the flash mobs!”

“Who run South Street? Not the police!”

Bicycle cops rode alongside, occasionally barking at protesters to stay on the sidewalk. A police captain and two sergeants, radios in hand, walked even with the group on the opposite sidewalk. Reactions from shoppers, people smoking outside bars and restaurants, and others along the atypically sedate South Street was varied. Near 10th Street, one couple set down their bags to cheer on the throng. “They want to protect their civil liberties to walk down the street without getting harassed by the police,” said the woman. Others stared and laughed, snapped photos, or shook their heads. Near the corner of Eighth and South, two neighbors—a man and a woman, both 44—stood against the bars of their gated courtyard and watched the procession go by. The man took a flier from a female protester bringing up the rear. “Oh, it’s the People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement—these guys are left of left,” he said to his neighbor. “I want the curfew indefinitely,” said the woman. “It has been a hard past three years where we felt like prisoners in our own homes. Swarms of kids, some of them literally pulling old people out of cabs and beating the bejeezus out of them.” Since the curfew took effect, she said, “It’s night and day here. It’s phenomenal. We have our neighborhood back.”

At Fourth and South, the chanting protesters crossed the street and headed back to their starting point with police still slowly bicycling along. Back at Broad and South, Olugbala reiterated his demand for an immediate end to the curfew and rallied his supporters to keep up the fight. Across the street, a police captain smiled and glanced around the block. “No problems at all,” he said, shaking hands with fellow cops. “It was very peaceful.” Afterward, his voice hoarse from chanting, Olugbala told PW he was happy with the turnout, and glad to see whites marching together with blacks in solidarity against the curfew. “It’s of the utmost importance because part of Michael Nutter’s strategy was to isolate the black community by racializing the issue of crime, by saying this is a question of certain black youth who are a so-called ‘disgrace to their race,’ as opposed to Michael Nutter himself taking responsibility for the failure of his own policies,” he said. Olugbala reiterated that the recent youth mob violence has “everything to do with the violent attacks of poverty and budget cuts, and police repression like stop-and-frisk.”

“I plan to become the mayor,” he added, “and do away with the police containment of our community and usher in a new period where economic development—led by the community itself—can be the way to resolve so-called violence in the city of Philadelphia.”

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COMMENTS

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1. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2011 at 12:16AM

“This is a fantastic article! Sounds like it was a really successful demonstration. Great quotes from the organizers. I support this movement to end the curfew! Clearly the solution to poverty is not police.....”

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2. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2011 at 12:11PM

“Take the protest to Washington and the failed Stimulus, etc. which was supposed to get the country's economy moving toward jobs creation. You all know how much that program accomplished.”

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3. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2011 at 01:09PM

“How is the curfew a "Jim Crow" curfew? It applies to anyone under eighteen in center and university cities. Would these people be holding a similar march and protest if it had been groups of Caucasian youth accosting those of African descent?”

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4. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2011 at 01:19PM

“its racists. this guy would not say a thing if it was white kids in flash mobs except statements against the flash mobs. He would not comment on getting them jobs. AA let us be a little tougher on our children so they grow up and act like adults.”

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5. Charlie Retzel said... on Aug 24, 2011 at 01:35PM

“If these 'wolf-packs/flashmobs' aren't racist, then i guess the KKK aren't. If a group of people of one race targets people of another race, it's racist. More so than saying a racist word. A mind is a terrible thing to waste and this Diop Olugbala and his admirers prove some people refuse to use their brains. If a person attacks others for no reason except to terrorize, they are criminals. Whether they are 11yo or 23yo. Whether they are black or white, male or female. Black president, black mayor, black police commissioner and black DA. America has changed and Diop thinks it hasn't.”

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6. shotime369 said... on Aug 24, 2011 at 05:04PM

“Although we presently live in a police-state now, it's good to see "the people" putting some fear in the system where it belongs. Thank you for an interesting, thought-provoking piece of journalism. Power to the People!”

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7. Mr.G said... on Aug 24, 2011 at 07:46PM

“Funny how the mayoral candidate did not say how he would stop the flash mobs. Just that its an attack on African youth!! Where are the Guardian Angels when you need them?”

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8. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2011 at 11:14PM

“If these "youfs" beez aprificans n' sheeit, why not just send 'em back to Africa? Otherwise just lock the little niqqers up.”

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9. cn2004 said... on Aug 25, 2011 at 12:30PM

“Nothing but filthy savages.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Aug 26, 2011 at 07:35PM

“shoot these people down like charging water buffalo”

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11. shotime369 said... on Aug 27, 2011 at 03:52PM

“Talk about a disgrace to their race, A. Akerman has to be the odium. There's someone who could have really done something to provide a decent education to the youth of this city. Education is the key to whatever future we have. Maybe if thet took the $900,000, and the $600 million for new prisons, and put it into education, we wouldn't need so many prisons.”

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12. Spaceman Spiff said... on Aug 27, 2011 at 11:44PM

“Ugh, another afro-centric black dude ranting about how poor blacks can do no wrong, but are held down by whites and rich blacks. I'd love to pop some popcorn, sit back, and watch Mr. Olugbala try to explain how flash mobs are not 100% the fault of ignorant black ghetto-trash.”

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13. Anonymous said... on Aug 28, 2011 at 08:52AM

“make the drug dealers give 39% of their income to a local neighborhood communtiy group = self contained community economic development.
oh wait
sorry i just got back from getting some crack from one of the corners featured in pws best dope corners article.

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Standing next to one of the grand archways that leads to the heart of City Hall, Diop Olugbala presents himself as the face of the masses of Philadelphians he says are being targeted by Mayor Nutter: young, black, mistreated, misunderstood, mischaracterized. The mayor, police and the city’s “ruling elite,” he says, “look at us and simply because of the way we look and dress and talk, they assume we’re criminals. Animals. Inarticulate.”