On Tuesday, a group of 150 to 200 people including Democratic city councilman Mark Squilla gathered in South Philadelphia displaying signs that read “White women’s lives matter,” “We know who you are,” and “We will not allow you to terrorize our neighborhood.” Ostensibly, the rally was meant to protest police inaction following an attack on a group of local women. The reality may have been much uglier than that.
According to Philadelphia ABC outlet WPVI, which covered the rally, demonstrators gathered at Fourth and Wolf Streets in the wake of “what they claim are racial attacks at the hands of four black women who live nearby” to protest the fact that Philadelphia police did not initially file a report on the alleged attacks or arrest the perpetrators. A woman identified as a victim of the attacks in WPVI’s segment says that her assailants yelled “white [expletive] we’re gonna [expletive] you up!” while they “pounded” her inside her home, and a man says that he was attacked on his doorstep by the same women. Both alleged victims declined to provide their names to WPVI and were interviewed with their faces obscured. Philadelphia’s NBC 10 also covered the rally without naming the alleged victims.
[There was a video here]
WPVI’s video makes it clear that the rally was racially charged—one demonstrator is shown saying “white lives matter” into a megaphone while holding a sign that appears to read “Eliminate the thugs.” What’s not clear from the report is that Jack Owens—identified by WPVI as the rally’s organizer—may have a history of virulent racism.
A Facebook profile under the name Jack Owens can be seen on a cached page promoting the event to a group called “Taking Our South Philadelphia Streets Back.” “We will gather on the corner of 4th and wolf to show our solidarity, to show the Police Department that we deserve answers and to show these victims that we care!”, the post reads in part.
Jack Owens’ profile has since been deleted, but a a tipster in South Philadelphia sent screencaps of about a dozen racist Facebook posts that were published by what appears to be the same account between 2009 and 2012. In one, a photo of a gorilla is captioned “Quit comparing me to niggers.” Another captions a photo of an older black woman with “oldest living monkey not in captivity and/or jail dies today at 113.” Several posts refer to “nigger history month.”
“Thank you for calls and texts asking how my sister is. After 4 blacks kicked her door in and attacked her. They had them but let them go,” another post reads, in apparent reference to the alleged attacks that inspired the demonstration.
Mark Squilla, who represents Philadelphia’s First District in City Council, can be seen addressing the crowd by megaphone in WPVI’s video. “We know there were several calls to 911 that day. We’re reviewing those calls. That will be put on record and decided why things went down the way they did,” he can be heard saying. According to WPVI, an internal investigation into the police’s response to the attacks was launched after Squilla “got involved.”
Because the names of the alleged attackers and victims have not been made public, it is difficult to divine the circumstances surrounding the attacks. But the Philadelphian who sent us Jack Owens’ Facebook posts said that there are rumors that run contrary to the demonstrators’ version of events. Making clear that his claims were unconfirmed, the tipster wrote via email:
Supposedly there was an argument between some women wherein a white woman was struck by a black woman. The police were called and determined it was a mutual fight with no real injuries and left the scene without arresting anyone.
A small group of white people related to the white woman then organized a “protest” or rally. The rally was purportedly to speak out against violence in their neighborhood - specifically, they say, 4 black women they claim are “terrorizing” their neighborhood...
The general gist though is that it was a seemingly small incident (no blood drawn) but the locals wanted an arrest. When the arrest wasn’t forthcoming, it quickly became exaggerated into the neighborhood being “terrorized.” It’s just an unfortunate distortion of what happens in the neighborhood where a very small minority of white people feel inexplicably threatened by their diminishing role of “running” the neighborhood
Representatives of Mark Squilla’s office have not yet returned my request for comment. I’ll update if and when they do.