National Guard mobilizes as second night of Philadelphia protests over Walter Wallace killing turn violent

PHILADELPHIA – A second night of unrest had city officials urging residents in areas west and north of Center City to remain indoors as widespread protests turned violent and looting across the city a day after police officers killed a Black man who was armed with a knife.

The Pennsylvania National Guard is being mobilized to the city to quell protests and riots for the second time in five months.

While the center of Tuesday night protests was near where 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr. was killed in West Philadelphia, police said more than 1,000 people were looting businesses in the Port Richmond section of the city. Police said there was a double shooting there that left two teens wounded.

The looting came despite a call for peace from the father of Wallace, who was shot and killed by police in an incident captured on video Monday. Shaka Johnson, an attorney representing Wallace’s family, said Wallace’s brother had called 911 to request medical assistance and ambulance.

“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. 

‘Stop this violence’: Philadelphia police report large crowd of looters as Wallace’s father calls for peace

Police stand by as demonstrators march in West Philadelphia following the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

Hundreds gather for second night of protests

Around 7 p.m. Tuesday, around 500 people gathered for a protest organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation and also attended by leaders of Black Lives Matter Philadelphia. 

Speakers called for defunding and abolishing police. They questioned why officers couldn’t use a Taser or other deescalation methods rather than shooting Wallace more than 10 times.

Days before the presidential election, some speakers also denounced both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Just before 7:30, hundreds of people filled the streets of West Philadelphia and started marching, eventually reaching the 18th District police precinct. There, dozens of officers in riot gear and shields stood behind a barricade as protesters surrounded them.

An activist named Michael “O.G. Law” Ta’Bon brought what he called a “mobile community center,” a shed attached to the trailer of a truck that was armed with basketball hoops and voter information.

Activist Michael 'OG Law' Ta'Bon speaks to police officers as demonstrators rally in West Philadelphia following the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

“I can’t believe police can’t just one time admit when they’re wrong,” he said. “Now an ex-con has to come out here and explain things the right way.”

Using a microphone, Ta’Bon spoke to officers along the barricade about racism and policing.

“I’ve got a mic because God gave me a mouth before Smith & Wesson gave you a gun,” he told officers.

Shortly after 9 p.m., a large portion of the crowd gathered at the precinct went back on the move. At one point, about a dozen officers were forced to retreat west as protesters started throwing objects at them.

Dozens of officers on bicycles and in vehicles then headed north, where protesters and police officers clashed and some were arrested as police used batons and pepper spray.

The clashes took place at the same site that much of the unrest occurred Monday night. Police said 91 people were arrested Monday night and 30 officers were injured. It’s unclear how many people were arrested Tuesday night.

View Playlist: Walter Wallace Jr. protest in West Philadelphia Tuesday night

Police fatally shot Walter Wallace after yelling at him to drop knife

The shooting of Wallace, an aspiring rapper and father of nine, occurred before 4 p.m. Monday as officers responded to a report of a person with a weapon, police spokesperson Tanya Little said.

They arrived in the city’s Cobbs Creek section, a predominantly Black neighborhood. There, they encountered the man – later identified as Wallace – who was holding a knife, Little said.

Walter Wallace: Philadelphia police fatally shoot Black man after yelling at him to drop knife in recorded incident

Officers ordered Wallace to drop the knife, but he instead “advanced towards” them. Both officers then fired “several times,” Little said.

Wallace was hit in the shoulder and chest. One of the officers then put him in a police vehicle and drove him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later, Little said.

The officers were wearing body cameras and were taken off street duty pending the investigation. Video of the shooting was taken by a bystander and shared on social media by nationally known civil rights attorney Ben Crump.

Wallace’s family sought ambulance, not police

A lawyer representing the family told reporters Tuesday night that Wallace had mental illness and had been taking lithium. Police officers responded twice to the Wallace residence Monday before returning a third time. Wallace’s brother reportedly called 911 looking for an ambulance.

After attending a community meeting at a church on the block where Wallace was killed, his family spoke to reporters.

Police shootings amid mental health crisis: Police have shot people experiencing a mental health crisis. Who should you call instead?

While nearby blocks were home to clashes between protesters and police and businesses were looted across the city, Walter Wallace Sr. denounced the looting and violence.

“They’re 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.”

Follow Jeff Neiburg and N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg and @NdeaYanceyBragg

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