Pennsylvania Is Sending In the National Guard to Suppress Walter Wallace Jr. Protests

Dozens of people were arrested in Philadelphia on Tuesday night and police ordered some residents to stay in their homes.
October 28, 2020, 3:23pm
A protester points while facing police during a demonstration Tuesday night, Oct. 27, 2020, in Philadelphia (AP Photo/Michael Perez)​
A protester points while facing police during a demonstration Tuesday night, Oct. 27, 2020, in Philadelphia (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Dozens of people were arrested and the National Guard was called in to suppress protests in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, the second day of protests against the brutal police killing of 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr.

Wallace, a Black man, was in the midst of a mental health crisis and holding a knife on a residential street Monday afternoon when he was shot and killed by two Philadelphia police officers. Officials say the two cops fired 14 rounds, and while it hasn’t been determined how many times Wallace was hit, his family said he was shot at least 10 times.

The killing, which was captured in a video that soon went viral, has sparked unrest in one of the largest cities in the country in the week leading up to the election, where Pennsylvania is expected to play a pivotal role. On Monday, police claimed 30 cops were injured, most of them hit with projectiles such as bricks and rocks, and one suffering a broken leg when she was hit by a car.

The protests continued Tuesday, with what appeared to be hundreds of people in West Philadelphia chanting “Black Lives Matter.”

Police clashed with protesters, who allegedly threw projectiles and an unknown red liquid, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Ultimately, the protest was dispersed by cops, who used pepper spray and batons, according to the Inquirer.

At least two cops were injured during Tuesday’s protests, according to NBC 10. Philadelphia police could not immediately confirm the number of people arrested.

There was also looting in the city for the second night in a row: according to police, about a thousand people engaged in property damage. A Walmart in the Port Richmond neighborhood was flooded and ransacked, according to FOX 29.

The city’s emergency management office tweeted that residents of seven police districts throughout the city should “remain indoors except when necessary. These areas are experiencing widespread demonstrations that have turned violent with looting."

Gov. Tom Wolf’s office confirmed that he’s mobilizing the National Guard to go to Philadelphia. The purpose of the deployment will be to protect local property and assist local police, a spokesperson told NBC 10.

Wallace’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., condemned looters while speaking with the media outside the family’s home Tuesday.

“They’re not helping my family, they’re showing disrespect,” he said. “Stop this violence and chaos. People have businesses. We all got to eat.”

Presidential campaigns respond

Pennsylvania is viewed as one of the most crucial swing states this year. President Trump won the state in a surprise in 2016, and Scranton-born Joe Biden is looking to flip it back.

The White House blamed Democrats for the violence in Philadelphia. “The riots in Philadelphia are the most recent consequence of the Liberal Democrats’ war against the police,” the White House said in a statement. “We can never allow mob rule. The Trump Administration stands proudly with law enforcement, and stands ready, upon request, to deploy any and all Federal resources to end these riots.”

The Biden campaign released a joint statement from the nominee and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, expressed “shock and grief” at Wallace’s killing. “Walter Wallace’s life, like too many others’, was a Black life that mattered,” they said.

At the same time, the campaign condemned the looting. “No amount of anger at the very real injustices in our society excuses violence,” they said. “Attacking police officers and vandalizing small businesses, which are already struggling during a pandemic, does not bend the moral arc of the universe closer to justice. It hurts our fellow citizens.”

“All Donald Trump does is fan the flames of division in our society,” Biden and Harris added. “He is incapable of doing the real work to bring people together. We will."

"White racist cops got my own dad"

Shaka Johnson, a lawyer representing Wallace’s family, said Wallace was taking lithium and that police were aware of his severe mental illness—his family said he was bipolar—as police had responded to calls from Wallace’s house three times Monday, according to the Inquirer. Johnson said that Wallace’s brother called 911 for an ambulance, but that the police arrived first.

“To think about calling for assistance and winding up with the people you called for assistance killing you, I can’t even conceive the concept,” Johnson said. He also said the police officers who shot Wallace were “lambs to the slaughter because of lack of training.”

The incident is being investigated by both the Philadelphia police and district attorney’s office. District Attorney Larry Krasner, a former public defender elected as a reformer in 2017, said he’s personally leading his office’s investigation into the shooting, and that the office has received some but not all of the body camera footage from the incident. “We have to get all the information, consider it carefully, find the facts, consider the law, and go wherever they lead us,” Krasner said.

The district attorney, however, characterized Wallace’s death as a failure of government.

“Government is supposed to protect us,” he said. “When we call government to help our mentally ill child, and it ends in his death in minutes, something went wrong. Government did not do what it was supposed to do.”

Wallace’s eldest son, still a child, said at a news conference his dad “taught me how to always be a man.”

"White racist cops got my own dad," Wallace’s son said. "And Black lives still matter." He then raised his fist.