Though the clouds hung heavy above the School District of Philadelphia headquarters at 440 Broad, students and teachers gathered in front of the building to rally in support of Benjamin Franklin High School student Brian Burney.
Burney, a junior at Ben Franklin and member of the Philadelphia Student Union, said he was assaulted by a school police office while attempting to use the bathroom at his school. In a statement released by the union, the incident occurred when Burney left class to go use the restroom. He found that the bathrooms on the fourth and third floors were locked.
On the third floor, Burney was told by school Police Officer Jeffrey Machiocha that he needed a pass in order to use the bathroom. An argument took place and Burney threw an orange against the wall. Soon after, Burney found himself in what the student union described as a choke-hold.
However, School District spokesman Fernando Gallard told Philly.com that it was “clearly a restraining hold and not a choke hold.” Gallard also told Philly.com that the orange that Burney threw hit the officer in the head. The student union disputes that claim.
At Tuesday’s press conference representatives of Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER), Reverend Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel AME Church and Reverend Leslie Callahan of St. Paul’s Baptist Church were in attendance.
Jitu Brown, National Director of Journey for Justice Alliance, traveled from Chicago to speak in support of Burney, and Kesi Foster of the Urban Youth Collaborative in New York City also made the journey.
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Dominique “Peak” Johnson is a North Philadelphia journalists and blogger. He is one of the founding editors and writers of the North Philly Metropolis, blogger for The Huffington Post, and staff writer for Al DÍA News. Click here to learn more about Peak.