Concerns grow as protests, outrage continue

PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Boarded-up storefronts and the near constant hum of helicopters permeated Philadelphia as the city entered the third day of protests and riots in response to the death of a black man at the hands of police in Minnesota.

Another 6 p.m. curfew was implemented Monday and SEPTA cut off service to Center City in the afternoon, with subway cars bypassing downtown stations.

Groups again showed up in the morning to clean up after Sunday night’s unrest. Looting continued Monday, even during the daytime, and SWAT officers pulled up in an armored vehicle to a strip mall that had been ransacked on Broad Street near Hunting Park Avenue.

PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Stores spray painted messages letting potential thieves know that nothing remained. Other business owners put up signs in support of the demonstrations and Black Lives Matter.

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle said shops abutting his Olney office were hit by looters.

“It’s a real punch in the gut for those of us who have worked closely with neighbors, constituents to do various neighborhood clean-ups and attempt to fix things up,” he said.

Demonstrators gathered to continue to cry out against the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by officers in Minneapolis, and other acts of police violence.

Activists marched up North Broad Street, and a large crowd gathered on Race Street in front of police headquarters, also known as “the Roundhouse.” People handed out water bottles, snacks and masks to protestors as they arrived.

 

PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

The U.S. National Guard arrived Monday morning, and military vehicles were lined up in front of the Municipal Services Building, across the street from City Hall.

“What you’re seeing across the country right now is unlike any of us have seen,” Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said during an afternoon press briefing. “We have been sitting on a powder keg for quite some time, and it has burst.”

The previous night, demonstrators torched multiple police cars and tossed molotov cocktails, rocks and bricks, injuring five officers, Outlaw said. In total, 18 officers have been injured, and two remain hospitalized.

Elsewhere, vandals lit a blaze Sunday that turned into a three-alarm fire near Kensington and Indiana avenues, authorities said. Thieves also broke into multiple businesses on the 3600 block of Germantown Avenue in North Philadelphia.

Police reported a total of 378 fires, including 14 arsons, and 246 incidents of looting Saturday and Sunday. So far, there have been 429 arrests, a number that is expected to grow as more people are processed.

PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

“I am frankly extremely disappointed in the number of people who ignored the curfew, especially minors,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.

Kenney, who said the situation is keeping him up at night, and School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite urged families to make sure children respect the curfew.

Many have suggested outside agitators have brought looting and violence to the city, but, according to preliminary data released by Outlaw, the majority of those arrested have been Philadelphia residents.

PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Of 257 people cited for failure to disperse, 181 live in the city, 46 reside elsewhere and addresses for 30 are unknown, she said. For curfew violations, 133 people were city residents compared to 27 who live outside Philadelphia and one whose address was not known.

Though almost all protestors have been wearing masks, demonstrations, for the most part, have not been socially-distant, bringing concern about the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Philadelphia is scheduled to move into the “yellow phase” of Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus recovery plan Friday, which would allow many businesses to reopen. The unrest is threatening to derail that timeline.

PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

“I can’t announce now that we’re not, but if you look at all we’re tied up with — pandemic, a depression, civil unrest and an election,” Kenney said. “There’s only so much energy and resources that we have, so I’m not saying ‘no’ but I’m not saying ‘yes,’ either.”

Philadelphia reported 252 new COVID-19 cases Monday and three additional deaths, raising the city’s toll to 1,287.

Kenney said he met with Wolf on Monday and asked for state assistance in securing polling places.

Polls for Tuesday’s primary will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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