Police run fundraisers from city park
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 1:00 AM
A fraternal organization whose fundraiser was shut down in a city park on Oct. 13 is demanding to know why they were run out by police when they had permission.
Members of a chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star voiced opposition during a heated discussion before the Philadelphia Mayor and Board of Aldermen last week, saying they had been treated unfairly when they were run out of DeWitt DeWeese park by police.
Spokespersons Natalie Woodward and Carrie Bennett of the Order of the Eastern Star, G.C. Wells #448 Chapter, asked the board why their fundraiser was shut down after being open only for three hours.
Woodward said the fundraiser, in the form of a yard sale, was similar to one held to benefit St. Jude Children's Hospital a few weeks earlier in the park, across from the public library.
The Eastern Star group, which is African-American, told the board that they had obtained a permission slip for the yard sale from City Hall before the event.
"We followed the rules," Bennett said.
Woodward told aldermen that the yard sale began at 7 a.m. but by 10 a.m., police had arrived to shut them down at the direction of Alderman-at-Large Janice Payne, following a verbal exchange inside the park.
She told the Mayor and Board that Payne arrived at the park and "gave her attitude."
The park incident ended after the group called Mayor James Young to clear up the matter.
Woodward said Young, who is African-American, asked them over the phone to leave "for the sake of peace."
Woodward and Bennett told aldermen they were outraged by the Mayor's statement, saying their group had been nothing but peaceful.
Young apologized for his remarks, saying he had just wanted a peaceful ending to the incident.
When Woodward continued to press the issue during last week's meeting, Young said he was "in limbo" over the matter, noting he had done all he could.
"I can only speak for myself," he said.
Payne initially attempted to respond to the accusations during last week's meeting as well but was stopped by Board Attorney Robert Thomas.
Woodward told aldermen that she asked Payne at the park why the city had not shut down the St. Jude event, and said her response was: "because you're the ones that got caught."
Woodward told aldermen that she asked Payne at the park if they were being shut down because of the color of their skin.
Her remarks sparked a comment from Payne, who said she told the group at the park that skin color did not matter and that "my skin was the same as yours."
The group said that because they were shut down early, they were unable to meet their financial goal by $238. They had only raised about $100 before police arrived.
Mayor Young responded, saying he would personally take care of their loss.
However, Woodward continued to express her displeasure over Alderman Payne's remarks, asking for a formal apology, a sentiment that was voiced by members of the crowd in attendance.
"You can tell her to apologize," one woman yelled.
Young, however, refused to budge, saying that he was only the "Mayor of me" and could not order an apology.
"I've given you all I can give you," he said. "I can't give anything else."
When the group continued to press the matter saying that items would be for sale during the upcoming OctoberFest at DeWeese Park, Attorney Thomas called the accusations "ridiculous."
Later the Mayor and Board of Aldermen agreed to review the rules regarding the use of DeWeese Park and said they would specify that events had to be approved by the board.