‘Philly Is Baltimore' Protest Winds Down After Hours Blocking Center City Traffic

A protest in response to recent events in Baltimore moved from Philadelphia's City Hall around Center City, causing traffic troubles along the way, and leading to confrontations with officers though most of the protest was peaceful.

Around 8 p.m., Philadelphia Police officers -- some on horseback -- and protesters pushed each on roads near the Vine Street Expressway (I-676) as the protest pushed toward the highway. The police line fell at one point and police could be seen cuffing at least one protester who broke through.

About 75 minutes later, police blocked the entrance to the Four Seasons Hotel at 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway as protesters approached.

The physical altercations came after the demonstration began peacefully at Dilworth Plaza. It wrapped up shortly before 6 p.m. as protesters headed onto city streets -- a large group marched on the streets around City Hall then down Broad Street in the other direction before turning onto Locust Street, winding around Rittenhouse Square and onto Walnut Street where they surrounded a police cruiser before moving along.

There were some verbal arguments during the march but nothing physical until nearly 8 p.m. when police could be seen removing some protesters who became rowdy after the group walked hand-in-hand down 16th Street toward the Vine Street Expressway.

Police then blocked the I-676 ramps to 15th Street as some protesters sat down in the intersection before the confrontations. Traffic continued to move on the highway as protesters eventually broke through the police line but didn't go onto the interstate.

After about 20 minutes the crowd began to scatter as police continued to block the ramps to the highway. Hundreds of demonstrators then headed toward Chinatown before moving to 8th and Market streets around 8:45 p.m.

Dozens of police vehicles trailed the protest down Market Street. After going down by the Gallery Mall (8th and Market) the protest cut back north and tried to enter the Four Season Hotel at 18th and Benjamin Franklin Parkway where police on bikes blocked their path.

The protest, which appeared to slowly thin out, then meandered back over I-676 and down Vine Street before turning back onto N Broad Street where they approached the Philadelphia School District Building. The continued to become smaller as they demonstrated outside the 9th Police District on 21st Street shortly before 11 p.m.

Police arrested two protesters for disorderly conduct.

A smaller group earlier walked up Broad Street toward North Philly.

The demonstration began with dozens of protesters marching along Chestnut Street in University City toward Center City shortly after 4 p.m. Philadelphia Police followed the peaceful protest as it marched. At the same time, the crowd began to grow at Dilworth Plaza -- near City Hall.

As of 5 p.m. the majority of the rally remained at Dilworth Plaza with police estimating 600 to 800 demonstrators taking part.

The protest was one of many happening nationwide in response to the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered spinal injuries while in Baltimore Police custody following his April 12 arrest. Gray later died. 

Some officials warned commuters to plan their evening commute as the large crowd could mess with travel around City Hall and throughout Center City but for the most part things continued to move as normal.

SEPTA officials did not announce any planned detours due to the protest, but acknowledged that they would keep an eye on the proceedings and make adjustments to mass transit schedules if necessary. SEPTA reported several bus routes with delays in Center City.

Commuters planning on driving through Center City should avoid Market Street and Broad Street near City Hall and expect congestion on other nearby roadways. For commuters looking to avoid the crowds, staying completely clear of the area is likely the best option.

Police maintained mostly peaceful boundaries during the demonstration. At least one Philadelphia school announced an early dismissal so students could get home safely.

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