By Robert Klemko, Katie Shepherd and Maura Ewing
Philadelphia – On the second night of mass demonstrations over the fatal police shooting of a 27-year-old black man, about 1 000 protesters marched through the streets of West Philadelphia on Tuesday demanding justice for Walter Wallace Jr.
Following a smaller protest that turned destructive on Monday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, authorized the National Guard to deploy troops Tuesday to help police protect property and quell unrest in the state’s largest city.
Monday’s demonstrations and looting left shops damaged and at least 30 officers injured, including one hospitalized with a broken leg after being struck by a truck. On Tuesday, police and protesters clashed again, but officers, aided by National Guardsmen, took a more aggressive tack, filling the streets with lines of riot cops who stopped marchers and made several arrests much earlier in the evening.
On Tuesday evening, a racially diverse crowd gathered at Malcolm X park in West Philadelphia, near the neighbourhood where Wallace was shot and killed by police on Monday. The group wound through residential streets until their path collided with a line of police officers in riot gear. Protesters chanted directly to the police.
“Who killed Walter Wallace?” they asked. “No justice, no peace. No racist police.”
Wallace died Monday after two Philadelphia police officers shot him multiple times while responding to a call reporting a man with a knife. His family said he suffered from mental health issues, which his doctors had been treating with medication. A video of the fatal encounter raised questions about why officers approached an apparent mental health crisis with guns drawn and why they did not first attempt to subdue Wallace with a less lethal weapon, such as a Taser.
Video: The Washington Post
“We’re out here to decimate the system that’s meant to decimate us,” said Mikal Woods, a 24-year-old Black man who lives in the West Philadelphia neighborhood that has been rocked by the shooting and subsequent protests. “They shot that man to kill him. Fourteen times.”
“I’ve been afraid of the police every day of my life,” he added.
Some pockets of the city’s demonstrations remained calm as late evening turned to night. As protesters marched, a truck lit up with photos of Wallace rolled through a largely peaceful crowd in West Philadelphia. A neon message displayed on its rear doors read: “I don’t hate cops. I hate that cops don’t speak against the killing of Blacks by cops.”
Pascale Vallee, a 34-year-old graduate student studying Public Health, said that the killing of Wallace was “shameful.”
She said she saw his death as “the intersection of so many ‘-isms’: Racism, ableism.”
“He needed social supports,” she added, “not bullets.”
As the protests spread out from West Philadelphia into several other parts of the city and grew increasingly volatile late Tuesday, the Philadelphia Police Department issued a request for residents near the unrest to stay home and remain indoors.
“These areas are experiencing widespread demonstrations that have turned violent with looting,” the city’s Office of Emergency Management said in statement on Twitter Tuesday night.
According to a statement by the Philedelphia Police Department, people in the large crowd began to loot businesses near Castor and Aramingo Avenues in north Philadelphia just before 9 p.m.
Helmeted police armed with batons and cops with large riot shields clashed with protesters late Tuesday night. Officers tackled several people, hitting them with batons. It is unclear how many arrests had been made late Tuesday.
Tuesday night’s tension between protesters and police is nothing new, said Charles M, a local middle school math teacher who declined to give his last name.
“West Philly and the cops have had a problem for a long time,” he said.
The teacher, who is Black, stood to the side of the crowd, scanning it.
“My main reason for being out here is making sure people don’t mess it up,” he said.
He was on the lookout for “agitators,” who he said were generally white people dressed in all black with their faces covered. A cohort meeting this description did later wind through the crowd.
“They’re the ones that spray paint, they’re the ones that throw bricks,” he said. “When you talk with them, engage with them, they split.”