Philadelphians turned out for the second night of protests on Tuesday night in the wake of the fatal police shooting of 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr. Police and elected officials took a much more aggressive stance against protesters than they did on Monday, with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) enlisting the help of the National Guard to aid Philadelphia police in protecting property and breaking up protests.
As the Washington Post reports, police, alongside National Guardsmen, “took a more aggressive tack, filling the streets with lines of riot police who stopped marchers and made several arrests earlier in the evening.”
But as has been the case throughout the year, increased law enforcement presence didn’t result in less violence and chaos at the protests.
From the Post:
Helmeted police armed with batons and others with large riot shields took an aggressive posture against demonstrators and media Tuesday night, breaking up large groups with targeted arrests after identifying accused brick- and bottle-throwers.
Protesters who yelled for the arrested to say their names as they were being detained with met with taunts from police: “His name is ‘caught,’ ” one officer responded. Other officers called demonstrators “motherf—-ers” as they shoved them with batons.
While the center of the demonstrations remained close to Wallace’s neighborhood in West Philadelphia, responses to Wallace’s extrajudicial killing could be found throughout the city. According to USA Today, police reported more than 1,000 people looting businesses in the Port Richmond neighborhood, as well as a double shooting that left two teenagers wounded.
Wallace’s father denounced the looting, telling reporters on Tuesday that the demonstrations of rage were “not helping my family.”
“They’re showing disrespect,” Wallace Sr. told reporters. “Stop this violence and chaos. People have businesses. We all got to eat.”
The city has been roiled by Wallace’s killing, which happened in a historically Black community that has long had issues with aggressive policing. Wallace was fatally shot by two Philadelphia police officers responding to a report of a man with a knife on Monday afternoon.
Witnesses say the officers arrived at the home where Wallace was with their guns already drawn. Wallace, who was holding a knife, brushed past his mother and walked toward police, who backpedaled as he approached. Though witnesses describe a fair amount of distance between Wallace and officers—approximately 10 feet—police shot at the 27-year-old about a dozen times within seconds.
Shaka Johnson, an attorney representing Wallace’s family, told reporters Tuesday night that Wallace had a mental illness, which he was taking lithium for. Police officers had already visited Wallace’s home twice on Monday. Johnson said Wallace’s brother had actually called 911 to request an ambulance. Instead, Philadelphia police arrived for the third, and final, time.
The shooting, which was caught on video, enraged bystanders, who immediately converged on the police after the shooting, demanding why there were no attempts to de-escalate the situation or use non-lethal force.
“When you come to a scene where somebody is in a mental crisis, and the only tool you have to deal with it is a gun...where are the proper tools for the job?” Johnson said.
Wallace sits in the nexus of two of the groups most vulnerable to state violence: Black people and those with mental health issues or disabilities.
According to the Washington Post, which has been tracking fatal police shootings since 2015, people with a mental illness account for one out of every five fatal police shootings. As for Black men, they comprise 27 percent of all men fatally shot by police.
Activists and supporters have rallied around Wallace’s family and those protesting. Philadelphia Bail Fund has been raising money to bail out demonstrators during the Wallace protests, and a GoFundMe for Wallace’s family has been set up. Philadelphia police said 91 people were arrested Monday night and 30 officers injured as a result of the protests. As of Wednesday morning, it was unclear how many people were arrested in Tuesday night’s unrest.
Pascale Vallee, a 34-year-old graduate student who attended Tuesday night’s protest, told the Post Wallace’s killing was “shameful.” To her, Wallace sat at “the intersection of so many ‘-isms’: Racism, ableism.”
“He needed social supports,” she said, “not bullets.”