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‘Just Plain Love’ Among the Protesters

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On June 6, in Philadelphia’s Logan Square, outside a hotel that wasn’t even open and in the middle of a Black Lives Matter march, Michael Gordon was waiting for his wedding to begin.

He heard shouting, and then cheering, clapping and whistling, and the wedding participants — 21 in all, the women in white and the men in black, all wearing masks designed for the event — began leaving to see what was going on. So he did, too.

What he saw was a swirl of protesters, who were beginning a march to City Hall on the parkway that ran in front of the hotel. But he didn’t see his bride, Dr. Kerry-Anne Perkins.

So he started into the crowd. “They parted like the Red Sea,” he said. “They knew who I was because I had on a tux. And in the middle of all these people is a circle around Kerry, looking like a black angel. She’s just there by herself, and they were there applauding her.”

He grabbed her hands, which were shaking, and she had tears running down her face, he said. He kissed her. Then the two stood side by side, clasping hands, and she gave him a look as she started to raise her right hand in a fist of solidarity. “I just instinctively did the same,” he said.

Dozens of cellphones snapped pictures, and the media, there to cover the protest, found the moment irresistible. Before the couple had even completed their post-wedding luncheon, Dr. Perkins said, their phones were flooded with congratulations from strangers all over the world. Stories appeared in national and international newspapers, magazines and television, and an Instagram posting of the moment quickly tallied hundreds of thousands of views.

“We can’t wrap our minds around exactly how or why people took something from that moment, but they did,” Mr. Gordon said. “It’s difficult for us to see it. We were just two people in love waiting to get married.”

Dr. Perkins, 35, is a staff surgeon at Alliance OB/GYN Consultants, which has offices in Delran, N.J., and Hainesport, N.J. She is also a captain in the Army Reserve Medical Corps. Mr. Gordon, 42, a Navy veteran, is a senior manager in the project management group of Athena Global Advisors, which is based in Philadelphia. The two met in 2013 at a Philadelphia gym. They chatted occasionally and eventually he asked her out, but she dismissed him.

He didn’t ask again until 2015, and by then, they had gotten to know each other through their mutual social circle and a sporadic exchange of texts.

Image“I couldn’t hold back the emotions,” said the bride. “It was so profound.”
Credit…Tyger Williams/The Philadelphia Inquirer, via Associated Press

“I had realized he was not pushy, he was just a gentleman, he had good energy, he never came across in a way that was negative,” she said. “Why not give him a chance?”

From that first date, their relationship quickly solidified, and Mr. Gordon said that he soon realized, “I am really never going to find another person like this, I don’t care how long I wait.”

“Her vibe — her aura — is the thing that struck me,” Mr. Gordon said. “She’s very attractive, but her energy was very strong. This is an absolutely amazing person.”

The couple were engaged in January 2019, and Dr. Perkins began planning a wedding with 250 guests for the Memorial Day weekend of 2020 at the Legacy Castle in Pequannock, N.J. And then came Covid-19. The couple realized they would have to postpone if they were to have the big wedding she wanted. Mr. Gordon had another suggestion.

“Mike was always the one to say, ‘Why wait? We should just get married,’” she said.

Eventually, she agreed. She found a venue — the Logan — that was offering its courtyard, even though the hotel was closed, to couples whose plans had been disrupted by the pandemic. The couple’s premarital counselor, the Rev. Roxanne Birchfield, a minister of the Evangelical Church Alliance and an Air Force Reserve chaplain, had offered to marry any of her clients in June, just to keep them encouraged as they postponed their dream celebratory events.

But the couple intended to keep the marriage a secret so that, when they had a celebration in 2021, no one would be disappointed.

And then their wedding was enveloped by the protest, part of the wave of events across the nation in response to the death of George Floyd, after he was pinned under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.

“I couldn’t hold back the emotions,” she said. “It was so profound.”

As that image of the two of them amid the protest rocketed across the internet, Dr. Perkins and Mr. Gordon returned to the hotel courtyard. Twenty minutes later, their ceremony was over and they were married.

“When we were walking away, we were like, ‘That was the most amazing moment ever,’” Mr. Gordon said. “They saw us, and they just knew what it is that we were. It symbolized to them what it is they were looking for — you’re looking for love. That’s what’s missing from the message out there. And that’s what we saw in the crowd. That was just plain love, and everybody had it.”

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