Ask the Mayor: Kenney discusses protests, coronavirus and election results

PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk 

Knowledge is power, and the best way to gain knowledge on the City of Philadelphia is to go right to the top. Every month, Metro will ask Mayor Jim Kenney questions pertaining to what is currently happening in the City of Brotherly Love—to get answers, give residents peace of mind and give each of us the power of being informed. This month, the column is continuing to focus on a few different subjects with questions pertaining to the current state of the city. Here is what Kenney had to say about how Philadelphia is handling the protests, recent election and coronavirus pandemic.

With ongoing protests and demonstrations, it has been challenging to regulate social distancing guidelines. What will need to happen if there is, in fact, a spike in coronavirus cases?  

Obviously, we hope a spike in cases does not occur, and that is why it is still very important to follow social distancing guidelines. Yellow is not green. The city’s plan for yellow is called “Safer at Home” intentionally—because it still is safer to be at home. 

We understand that these precautions were not always followed during the demonstrations. But we did our best to urge participants to minimize those risks. The Health Department issued guidance for demonstrators. Those who were at or near a protest—even if they wore a mask—should (among other things) monitor for symptoms and get tested for COVID-19 seven days after having been in a crowd. And this past Saturday, Health Department workers went out on the Parkway to hand out masks. Hopefully, those who participated did their best to minimize their exposure. 

What is the City of Philadelphia and the police department doing to ensure vigilantes do not threaten citizens, such as the group who recently gathered in Fishtown? 

We understand a community’s desire to protect their neighborhood, and if they want to do that in peace we would allow it—regardless of neighborhood. But armed vigilantism is not tolerated. In Fishtown last week, police eventually moved in to disperse the group, but I am not happy with how long it took. We will not tolerate it moving forward. If a resident wants to stand up for their community, if they want to help our police force, we welcome that — so long as they do so in a peaceful, non-threatening, non-confrontational way.

As Philadelphia enters the Yellow Phase, do you anticipate the process of partially reopening the city to be peaceful given the current circumstances of protests and looting? Will there be support to ensure these businesses can open safely? 

As I write this, demonstrations have been large and peaceful, and we are pleased that so many who have chosen to make their voices heard in a non-violent way. At the same time, incidents of looting have decreased. I’m hopeful that businesses can safely move to the Yellow Phase, and my administration will do everything we can to support them as they do. Readers can do their part by getting out to your locally owned stores and do some shopping— with masks of course.

Although there has been discussions about delays regarding mail-in ballots, it has been reported that challenger Nikil Saval defeated Sen. Larry Farnese in the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania’s 1st Senate District. What are your thoughts on what this means for the PA State Senate? 

I want to thank Sen. Farnese for his dedication to public service and to the residents of Philadelphia, and wish him the best in his future endeavors. But life never stands still, it is always evolving, and I’m pleased to see that there is a new generation stepping into local politics. Nikil Saval is a perfect example. We congratulate him on his primary victory, and should he be successful in the fall general election, we look forward to supporting his efforts to promote Philadelphia’s interests in Harrisburg. 

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