Massive protests, some looting rage on for a third day in Philadelphia

KYW Staff
June 01, 2020 - 4:23 pm
Philadelphia protest

Kristen Johanson/KYW Newsradio

Categories: 

UPDATED: 10 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Protesters swarmed the city of Philadelphia for a third day — this time, with the National Guard on-site.

Related: Live coverage of Floyd protests in Center City

Many protesters took a knee for George Floyd, the black Minneapolis man whose death during an arrest sparked national outrage and civil unrest. They begged police officers at City Hall to do the same.

By rush hour, thousands of people flooded the Vine Street Expressway, heading east. A sea of young people ran up and down the ramps, while backlogged drivers honked at a standstill.

Protesters were then met by Philadelphia police and Pennsylvania State Police, and authorities started dropping tear gas from helicopters above, trying to disperse the crowd. Pilots flew the copters low, circling the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Some protesters seemed to be prepared for the tear gas, offering other demonstrators water bottles to flush out their eyes.

Aside from the traffic hazard, the protest was relatively peaceful.

Still, police started making mass arrests on the expressway after the tear gas dispersed many protesters.

Police officers arresting protesters on the Vine Street Expressway
KYW Newsradio

Over a thousand protesters continued to walk peacefully towards City Hall after 6 p.m., which is when the citywide curfew began. There, police officers started shouting at protesters, saying “you are out past curfew." Many protesters had left the area after the warning, and authorities started arresting at least a dozen protesters who were still there.

The National Guard stood behind rails set up around City Hall, the area clear of protesters.

A little after 7 p.m. at police headquarters, Philadelphia police officers and members of the National Guard took a knee to honor Floyd, something protesters have been asking of them all day. Protesters cheered and chanted as this happened.

At around 8 p.m. at Broad and Spring Garden streets, police were arresting some protesters for staying out past curfew.

Police on Broad and Spring Garden streets
KYW Newsradio

At around the same time, a group of people who said they support the police and wanted to protect their Fishtown neighborhood came out with bats and other objects in their hands, standing on one side of Girard Avenue, while protesters remained on the other side of the street, with police in the middle.

“They’re not going to use them unless they have to,” Fishtown resident Donna said of the group from the neighborhood.

She watched from the sidelines and said she knows these people well.

“They’re here to protect their neighbors. These are the neighbors they’ve known their entire lives. They’re mom and dad have grown up with their parents. It’s always been like this in Fishtown,” she said. 

The groups yelled at each other at times but police were able to clear the scene before anybody could cross to the other side.

Earlier in the day, dozens of Black Lives Matter protesters hit the streets. This civil demonstration started at Broad and Spring Garden streets, where about 75 people took a knee in the middle of the intersection.

A few protesters got in the faces of police officers, though they did not flinch or respond.

The crowd then headed north on Broad Street, chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “no justice, no peace.”

Those same officers followed behind on bikes to make sure things don’t get out of hand — which they didn’t. There was no looting or violence during this particular protest.

Some pedestrians joined in on the chants as protesters marched by. Others said “thank you” to some officers.

Down at City Hall Monday afternoon, protesters and officers engaged in civil discussions — separated by metal barricades.

South Philadelphia saw a different crowd. People were seen looting stores located along Columbus Boulevard, like Old Navy and Famous Footwear.

Some residents created a barricade in front of the South Philly Target, hoping to prevent looters from rampaging the store.

City response 

Amid the outrage, Mayor Jim Kenney provided a brief update Monday on the chaos from the weekend

“I am frankly extremely disappointed by the number of people who ignored the curfew, especially minors,” he said. “This curfew is not just imposed to protect property and businesses, it’s imposed to protect our residents.”

He issued a plea similar to his ongoing coronavirus decree: “You can do your part by staying home and making sure your family members stay home. Parents: Please do your part by making sure your children — especially teens and preteens — stay home.”

All this, meanwhile, occurring during the coronavirus pandemic and the Pennsylvania primary election on Tuesday. Kenney asked for an extension for the deadline for mail-in ballots, and Monday evening, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order extending the deadline for mail-in ballots in Philadelphia county and five other counties.

Kenney added that poll workers will be provided with PPE, and in-person voters will receive gloves.

“With our residents under curfew tonight and potentially tomorrow, these actions are appropriate and much-needed,” he said.

Kenney again enacted a citywide curfew, starting 6 p.m. Monday through 6 a.m. Tuesday. The nightly curfew on election day is postponed to 8:30 p.m., a half hour after polls close.

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said incidents of looting, vandalism and arson were rampant over the weekend, echoing the mayor: “These criminal acts are completely disconnected from any noble cause.”

In total, police and fire crews responded to 378 fires — 14 of which were arson — 246 commercial burglaries, four acts of graffiti, and 154 acts of vandalism.

So far, 429 arrests have been made. That number is expected to grow.

Eighteen officers were injured — two are still hospitalized. 

Police also responded to 21 shooting victims.

On a regular day, the city would average about 3,000 calls to 911. On one day over the weekend, they received 18,000 calls.

“What you’re seeing across the country right now is unlike any of us have seen,” said Outlaw. “We have been sitting on a powder keg for quite some time, and it has burst. You layer that with a level of the anger that’s been pent up. And then you add technology.”

She said the way police have been managing crowds over the years will have to change, as protesters have developed “countertactics” and “they’re very smart in how they do this. This is very coordinated.” 

Gov. Tom Wolf also met with Kenney and the Philadelphia Police Department, where they discussed “how we can support the black community during this difficult time.”

While the governor has been helpful, Kenney condemned President Donald Trump, who he said has done nothing for Philadelphia amid the chaos.

“The president should know a mess when he sees it because he is a mess,” the mayor said. “He’s brought no help, nothing. All he knows how to do is tweet and create division. It’s enough.”

In a call with governors Monday, Trump called Philadelphia weak for failing to enforce law and order over the weekend.

The city was also supposed to move to the yellow phase of reopening on Friday. but the mayor says that's now in question.

“If you look at all we're tied up with, pandemic, a depression, civil unrest and an election. There's only so many resources that we have,” Kenney said.

___

KYW Newsradio’s Rachel Kurland, Kristen Johanson, Pat Loeb, Justin Udo and Andrew Kramer contributed to this report.

This is an ongoing story. Stay with KYW Newsradio for the latest.