Encampment protesters refuse to leave Ben Franklin Parkway despite looming deadline

ByAshley Johnson via WPVI logo
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
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Encampment protesters say they are not leaving despite a looming deadline.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Outreach workers have been out across from the housing protest encampment on the Ben Franklin Parkway for two days.

They say they've placed about 12 people in alternative housing, but several protesters say they aren't moving.

"I already know where I'm going Friday...jail," said Housing Encampment Founder Leonard Flowers.

Flowers said come Friday, the city-mandated evacuation will be a fight.

"I went to jail for whatever else I went to jail for, why can't I go there for a good cause," Flowers said.

Protesters have filled up three separate encampments, including one directly across from the Philadelphia Housing Authority. All are within proximity to the main site along Ben Franklin Parkway.

"It's been really good. People are coming up talking to us and really asking about services. People have been taking advantage of the housing options that we have," Project HOME director Carol Thomas said.

While outreach workers say they're making progress, the city issued a second notice with much stronger language stating there have been too many issues such as unsanitary conditions, drug sales and violence. Authorities said there have been two stabbings near the site.

"It was a person that wasn't even a part of the encampment came over there starting trouble," Flowers said.

Those at the second encampment say even though things haven't turned out as they hoped, spirits remain high.

"Everybody feels really good about themselves that they are standing up and fighting," protest leader Jennifer Bennetch said.

But there are still a lot of questions about what will happen on Friday.

"They're willing to be arrested, they're tired of being kicked around, they're tired of being ignored," Bennetch said.

Outreach workers say their last day being out at the encampment is Thursday but they can help past Friday for those refusing to leave.