(The Center Square)(October 28, 2020)-- – Unrest in Philadelphia continued for a second night as protesters rallied against the police killing of a Black man on Monday afternoon.
The department told residents across seven precincts to remain indoors as violence and looting again erupted Tuesday. The chaos follows the death of 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr. – a West Philadelphia man shot and killed in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood after he brandished a knife and refused to drop it while advancing toward officers, according to reports.
Wallace’s family says he was experiencing a mental health crisis as a result of his bipolar disorder. The man’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., denounced the unrest in an interview with CNN on Tuesday and implored rioters to “cut it out.”
“I don't want to leave a bad scar on my son and my family with this looting and chaos stuff," Wallace Sr. said. "So I want my son's name and everybody to stop this. Give my son a chance. And the family – like we're decent people.”
But the family has also questioned why less lethal methods weren’t used first. In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, the family’s attorney said they called for an ambulance to assist Wallace Jr. and two officers arrived instead. It was the third emergency response to the residence that day, according to the report, raising questions as to why law enforcement shot despite knowledge of Wallace’s deteriorating condition.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said Monday his office “takes its obligation to be fair and to seek even handed justice seriously.”
“We intend to go where the facts and law lead us and to do so carefully, without rushing to judgment and without bias of any kind,” he said.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw told reporters she anticipates ongoing protests in the wake of Wallace Jr.’s death. Gov. Tom Wolf also deployed the National Guard to the city after 30 officers were injured Monday night while clashing with protesters.
The chaos comes just days before the general election and rumored incidents of voter intimidation and civil unrest across the state. Both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden commented on Wallace’s death Tuesday as they vie for Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.
"Last night Philadelphia was torn up by Biden-supporting radicals," Trump said during a campaign rally in Wisconsin. "Thirty police officers, Philadelphia police officers, they were injured, some badly. Biden stands with the rioters, and I stand with the heroes of law enforcement.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany released a statement early Wednesday that further blamed the unrest on the “liberal Democrats’ war against police.”
“The facts must be followed wherever they lead to ensure fair and just results,” she said. “In America we resolve conflicts through the courts and justice system. We can never allow mob rule.”
McEnany said the federal government stands ready, at request, to deploy “any and all resources” to end the rioting.
In a joint statement with running mate Kamala Harris, Biden denounced the violence against police officers and ransacking, saying neither “bends the moral arc of the universe closer to justice.”
“Looting is not a protest, it is a crime,” the candidates said. “It draws attention away from the real tragedy of a life cut short.”
Biden and Harris also said their hearts break for Wallace Jr.’s family “and for all those suffering the emotional weight of learning about another Black life in America lost.”
“We cannot accept that in this country a mental health crisis ends in death,” the candidates said. “It makes the shock and grief and violence of yesterday’s shooting that much more painful, especially for a community that has already endured so much trauma. Walter Wallace’s life, like too many others’, was a Black life that mattered – to his mother, to his family, to his community, to all of us.”
The Center Square reached out to the Pennsylvania National Guard's public affairs office to confirm rumors that units had also been activated to respond to postelection violence and rioting, but received no response. A spokesperson for the governor called the rumors "inaccurate" on Wednesday.