On July 6, 2016 over 1500 persons took to the streets of Philadelphia to protest the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Many of the protestors were also attending the General Conference. The march ended with a rally at Arch Street United Methodist Church. Tanya Brown Wright, mother of Philadelphia police shooting victim Brandon Tate-Brown was among the speakers. Below are recollections and thoughts from three key organizers: Rev. Mark Tyler, Rev. Stephen A. Green and Rev. Jay Broadnax.
Rev. Mark Tyler, Pastor of Mother Bethel, Philadelphia, President of AME Ministerial Alliance of Philadelphia, Harrisburg and the Vicinity
When I heard about the Alton Sterling shooting, I spoke to Rev Jay Broadnax. I suggested to him that we needed to do something while we were at the General Conference. After speaking with Bishops Gregory Ingram and Reginald Jackson, we decided to hold a press conference or rally at 7AM the following day. We went to Arch Street United Methodist Church because they are a member of POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild).
Then we woke up and heard about Philando Castille. We knew we had to do something. Bishop Jackson mentioned that we should talk to Bishop Samuel Green because of the young people. Rev. Stephen Green and the Young Adults had planned to do a march at 6PM. Rev. Broadnax and I found Rev. Green and organized it for 6-7PM with training at 5:30PM for non-violent direct action and the route up at Arch Street UMC. At 7:40PM, we finished so we could get back to our seats
The General Conference is a business meeting. There were 4 years of planning. There’s a tight agenda and not a lot of extra time for anything. Senior Bishop John Bryant walked the entire march. The President of the Council of Bishops John White attended the rally along with Bishops Bryant, Ingram, Green and Jackson. For the General Conference to step away to do this was powerful. While it may have been a one-off for the General Conference, it was absolutely consistent with who we are as AMEs. Bishop C.G. Henning said, “Social Justice is in our DNA.” If we were in our own communities not GC we would have been marching. I saw people there who I know would have been marching in their communities.
One of the most powerful parts of the day was that as an AME family on a connectional level, we were able to do something together. It feels like we do this together via social media. But to be out there with people from different nations and all parts of the US and all over the entire AME church marching together in solidarity—I thought it was incredible.
Rev. Stephen A. Green, National Director at NAACP Youth and College Division
YPD President Chinelo Tyler and RAYAC President Martinique Mix had scheduled a luncheon on July 5th. We transformed the luncheon into strategy session to have persons working on posters and march logistics. We also wrote a resolution to follow up with action to have it in the minutes of the General Conference so that people could see the RAYAC, the YPD and all ministries to working well together.
The AME Church made a strong statement in Philadelphia that no other Black denomination—no other counterpart denomination— has done. We paused from the business of the Church to be engaged in the streets. We are not just pew members. But we will take our parishioners to the streets and engage in nonviolent civil disobedience. We shut down Philly streets during rush hour. We didn’t have a permit. The police shut it down b/c we had over 1000 people. We must be the church that is radically disruptive. Our nation is looking for Black Church to be in leadership again. Must embrace our true DNA as people of resistance birthed out of protest.
Black Churches must engage in local community resistance. We must advocate for local police reform and Citizen Review Boards. We must advocate for federal legislation and for police reform. Our policy agenda coupled with protest agenda. We embrace power of the vote. This  is the most important presidential election in modern history. We must recognize that we must take our protest to the polls and do our best to elect people to represent our agenda.
Rev. Jay Broadnax, Pastor of Mt. Pisgah, President of Black Clergy in Philadelphia and the Vicinity, Inc.
We had planned for a rally and heard what other groups such as were doing. Because the AME Church was so present in the city at the time, we thought it’d be a great opportunity to unify all those streams into one movement. Rev. Green and Rev. Tyler were talking; the other existing Black Lives Matter people were talking and this developed momentum for doing a march. This happened because of timing and interest in the leadership of the AME Church.
The next day there was the Dallas massacre. Even though we grieve with law enforcement and the loss of life, we have to continually lift up the justness of fighting against police brutality. We must keep the effort moving. We have to call to account those who we pay to protect our communities. Following the march, have been a lot of conversations ensuring that both of those concerns are validated. The fact is that those most active in fight against police brutality are not seeking to bring harm to police officers. The loss of police offers does not invalidate police brutality. We hope to put pressure on District Attorney to reopen case of Brandon Tate-Brown. We hope to continue to advocate that with the DA’s office and not let it lie or die but to have the case reopened.