Mahcaiyah Wearing-Gooden didn’t come to Center City looking for a megaphone, but she was using one Tuesday afternoon to speak to a crowd of people while on the verge of tears.
“I never thought I would have to live in a world where I would have to pray to reach 30,” said Wearing-Gooden, who is 28 and black. “Anybody that doesn’t look like us doesn’t know the struggle.”
She was sitting near 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard when she saw a couple protesters berating officers. Wearing-Gooden put herself between the aggressive demonstrators and the cops.
“I decided to take action because I didn’t want it to turn hostile,” she told Metro.
Far above, a plane flew with a banner that read “bless the peacemakers 4 they shall inherit earth.”
Peaceful gatherings against police brutality continued Tuesday in Philadelphia, a day after law enforcement used tear gas on protesters on the Vine Street Expressway and white vigilantes with bats patrolled Fishtown.
Incidents of looting and violence popped up again, and nearly 700 people have been arrested since the protests began in the city Saturday in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
“I hate this entire thing. I wish none of this ever started,” said Mayor Jim Kenney, who has become increasingly visibly frustrated amid the unrest and coronavirus pandemic.
Officials said authorities deployed tear gas as a last resort after protestors ran out onto I-676 at around 5 p.m. Monday. The decision was made after a crowd surrounded a state police car and began shaking it, police said, though chemicals were used on others as well.
A video circulating online shows law enforcement running up to protesters and spraying pepper spray directly into their faces. Kenney called it “unacceptable.”
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said the entire 10-minute exchange is being investigated by her department.
VIGILANTES IN FISHTOWN
In Fishtown, residents armed with bats showed up Monday evening to “protect” the 26th Police District station on Girard Avenue. Officers separated them from protesters, but the groups later clashed.
Officers reportedly high-fived the bat-wielding men and took photos with them. Police eventually made the group disperse, but Kenney said he was not happy about how long the vigilantes were allowed to wander the streets.
“We tolerated it last night for too long,” the mayor said. “It was a mistake. We will not tolerate it moving forward.”
A WHYY producer, Jon Ehrens, said the group beat him and pushed his girlfriend when he tried to record them on camera.
Outlaw said she did not have an answer as to why the residents with bats were allowed to gather past curfew.
MORE VIOLENCE OVERNIGHT
Elsewhere, the 67-year-old owner of a South Philadelphia gun shop shot and killed a man who was allegedly part of an armed group of looters. The incident occurred early Tuesday morning on the 1500 block of S. Front Street.
Officers recovered a black handgun from the man who was killed. No arrests have been made, but police are still investigating.
A 24-year-old man died Tuesday morning after trying to blow up an ATM on the 2200 block of N. 2nd Street in North Philadelphia.
Outlaw said authorities believe there is an organized effort to break into ATMs across the city.
A 19-year-old student also died overnight from injuries related to looting, Kenney said. Sources told Metro the person was cut by glass.
“A pair of sneakers or a video game are simply not worth your future,” Kenney said.
Teams of officers have been assigned to areas throughout the city to protect businesses from looting, Outlaw said.
BIDEN VISITS PHILLY
As voters headed out to the polls or mailed in their ballots, former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, made a rare trip out of Delaware during the pandemic to speak Tuesday inside City Hall.
Biden called on Congress to pass legislation to outlaw the use of chokeholds by officers, halt the transfer of military-style weapons to police and improve oversight and accountability for departments.
He condemned looting and violence as well as heavy-handed crowd control techniques. Biden also took aim at his rival in November’s general election.
“Donald Trump has turned this country into a battlefield riven by old resentments and fresh fire,” he said. “Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be?”
Trump returned fire on Twitter, saying, in part: “Weakness will never beat anarchists, looters or thugs, and Joe has been politically weak all of his life.”