On the 26th anniversary of his murder in Center City, Officer Daniel Faulkner was memorialized yesterday in South Philadelphia at an event that was more festive and commercial than somber.
With the Avalon String Band playing cheerful Christmas songs, hundreds of police officers and civilians gathered at Geno's Steaks to pay tribute to the officer whose convicted killer, Mumia Abu-Jamal, is better known than the victim.
This year, the ceremony attracted a larger crowd than before because it coincided with the release of Murdered by Mumia, a book by Maureen Faulkner, the officer's widow, that was intended as a counterpoint to Abu-Jamal's widely recognized campaign to proclaim his innocence.
While a bookseller sold copies, buyers lined up to get them signed by Faulkner or coauthor Michael Smerconish, the radio personality who also writes columns for The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News.
"This is what you call a book signing, South Philly-style," Smerconish said.
There were somber moments. A prayer was said, Taps was played, and "Amazing Grace" wailed from bagpipes played by the Philadelphia Police and Fire Pipes and Drums Corps.
Though Abu-Jamal's supporters have protested at some other events associated with the book release, they were not in evidence yesterday afternoon, despite rumors that they might show up.
Joey Vento, the owner of Geno's who has put the names of fallen officers on his brick sidewalk, said that as recently as Saturday night, vandals tried to deface the memorial he has built for Faulkner outside his business.
Yesterday, protesters would have been outnumbered. "It's a little bad territory for them to come in here," Vento said. "This is very pro-cop. We believe in justice."