What started out as peaceful protests throughout the City of Philadelphia turned violent, and eventually escalated into riots and looting Saturday evening.
Demonstrators throughout the country gathered to seek justice for George Floyd, a black man killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the hands of police. In Philadelphia, protests began at noon at City Hall and the Art Museum, where people held signs reading, “I can’t breathe,” “There will be a reckoning,” and “Justice for George.” Protesters knelt in silence to honor Floyd.
It was an act of solidarity.
“They exercised their constitutional guarantees passionately but also very peacefully,” said Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, adding that at the height of the protests, approximately 3,000 demonstrators gathered. “We appreciate their voice and the lawful manner in which they expressed their anger and frustration over the tragedies that continue to take place all over the nation.”
Hours later, that was not the case.
Protests quickly intensified as police cars were flipped and set on fire. Protesters clashed with local law enforcement and many businesses along Walnut and Chestnut streets were vandalized and looted.
Four police vehicles were set on fire, including one Pennsylvania state police vehicle. At least nine total fires were set to other vehicles and structures.
Police reported 207 civilian arrests on Sunday afternoon, the majority of which were for curfew violations (138) and Code Violation Notices (149). Forty-eight people were arrested for burglary/looting, 3 for assault on police, 3 firearms violations, 4 theft and 11 failure to disperse unrelated to curfew. These numbers will continue to grow as arrestees are processed, according to Outlaw.
In total, 13 officers were injured, including a bike officer in the 9th District who was struck by a car while attempting to stop individuals from looting a business near 7th and Chestnut streets. As the vehicle tried to escape, it ran over the officer, who is now in stable condition at Jefferson Hospital with a broken arm and other injuries.
“None of today’s acts of violence or damage to property will do anything to restore faith and trust between the police and communities of color. Although anger and distress are justified, acts of violence and destruction are never justified,” Mayor Jim Kenney said during a press conference on Saturday night, shortly before implementing an 8 p.m. curfew, which was enforced through 6 a.m. Sunday morning.
“We all have reasons to be deeply disturbed by systemic racism that has plagued our society for fall too long,” Kenney added. “We are justified in our anger when another unarmed black American’s life is cut tragically short at the hands of police. But what’s taken place today in our city, and across the nation, is unacceptable.”