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Philadelphia Rally Set To Respond to Grand Jury Findings in Ferguson, Mo. Shooting

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Groups across the country, including here in Philadelphia, are planning protests in anticipation of a grand jury's decision on whether to indict Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of an unarmed black teen last August.

The rallies are being advertised on social media.  And whether they are a celebration of a battle won or a renewed call for justice will depend on the findings of the Ferguson grand jury.

"We are doing these demonstrations assuming [Wilson] will not be indicted," said Naved Ahsan, a Temple University student, this morning.   Ahsan is affiliated with a group called "PURP" -- People Using Real Power.  They are planning a march and rally for the day after the announcement. It will start at North Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue and end at Love Park (JFK Plaza).

There are also protests scheduled for the day of the decision, including one at Philadelphia City Hall and another outside the Federal Courthouse at 6th and Market.

"We are organizing our resistance and will demand change," says Ahsan.  "We all know the injustices that have been going on, and police brutality needs to end."

"This thing is here for the long haul, up to an indictment or not, and up to a trial if that is what happens," says Rev. Mark Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel AME Church.  He was among those protesting in Ferguson last summer, and says the presence of clergy helps ease tensions.

"Just walking out with our clergy collars on made the police kind of calm down and take a step back and made the young people kind of take a step back," recalls Tyler.

Tyler says he'll be here in Philadelphia as the planned rallies take place, but his goal is not to prevent protesters from taking action.   In fact, he says, just the opposite.

"People are upset because we've seen this story before," notes Tyler.  "I will be there to make sure that our rights are not restricted.  But Philadelphia is the heart of democracy, so where else should we continue to push the ideas on which this country was founded?"

"We're not 'nice church folk,' " says Bishop Dwayne Royster, executive director of POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild), an interfaith group that works for education and economic and racial justice.

"If there's no indictment, it will be a very dark time for folks in this country, especially for those of color who have felt the sting of oppression from police departments and from law enforcement in this country," says Royster.   "I think we're going to see in a very clear way that pain manifested -- not just in Ferguson, but in cities across the country."

In addition to Philadelphia, other Pennsylvania rallies are also being advertised for Pittsburgh, Meadville (western Pa.), and Stroudsburg (Poconos), and for scores of other cities across the country.

Stay tuned to KYW Newsradio 1060, CBS3, and for the latest on the Ferguson grand jury findings and for related stories.

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