Philadelphia prepares for another night of protests over Walter Wallace killing after second night turns violent

N'dea Yancey-Bragg and Jeff Neiburg, USA TODAY
·8 min read

PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia announced a citywide curfew Wednesday as residents brace for more protests over the police killing of a Black man after a second night of unrest turned violent.

The curfew will go into effect on at 9:00 p.m. through 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 29, according to a release from the city's mayor.

Some businesses were left cleaning up damage Wednesday after video showed people streaming into stores and stealing goods as they left. The Pennsylvania National Guard is being mobilized to the city to quell protests and riots for the second time in five months.

Police made 81 arrests overnight on charges of criminal trespass assault on police and disorderly conduct. At least 23 officers were injured, treated and released and nine police vehicles were damaged.

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. There was a double shooting there that left two teens wounded, police said.

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.

Wallace’s wife, Dominique Wallace, is pregnant and scheduled to be induced Wednesday, according to Johnson. Johnson said Wallace had nine children — two briefly spoke at a news conference late Tuesday, along with Wallace’s mother and father.

'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.
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.
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.

Protesters gather in New York, Portland

More than two dozen people were arrested, five officers were hurt and at least nine police vehicles were damaged amid protests over Wallace's death in New York Tuesday night, police said Wednesday.

Approximately 27 people were arrested on charges including assault on police officer, unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct and making graffiti, Denise Moroney, an NYPD spokesperson told USA TODAY. Moroney said 39 commercial properties were damaged.

People broke windows of businesses and started small fires in garbage cans as protesters took to the streets in downtown Brooklyn, KABC-TV reported.

A senior NYPD spokesperson told NBC News several NYPD officers were injured when a car attempted to drive through a group of cops. Video shared on social media appears to show the driver telling officers "I'm just trying to go home" as a message from police declares the gathering an unlawful assembly.

The driver initially seems to be allowed to drive away, but is stopped a short distance later as the officers hit the vehicle with batons. Then, the driver attempts to drive through the group of officers.

In Portland, more than 100 protesters gathered downtown for a vigil in memory of Wallace, The Oregonian reported. Later Tuesday night about 50 demonstrators marched through the streets of Portland according to the paper.

A third group marched to Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan’s house where they called for defunding the Portland Police Bureau. Ryan spoke with the group of about 75 people for nearly an hour before they dispersed.

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.”

Mental health advocates demand change

Wallace is one of several people experiencing a mental health crisis who have been killed or wounded by police.Recent examples include Daniel Prude, Nicolas Chavez and Linden Cameron.

More than 1 in 5 people shot and killed by police have a mental illness, according to a Washington Post database of fatal shootings by on-duty police officers.

Police have fatally shot more than 1,200 people with mental illnesses – the majority of whom were white – since 2015, according to the database. Of the nearly 700 people shot and killed by police so far this year, more than 100 had a mental illness.

As these cases gained national attention amid a movement for racial justice and police reform sparked by the recent killings of several Black men and women, many people have spoken out against police shootings of people experiencing mental health crises. While some are calling for departments to require more training in crisis intervention, others are promoting alternative emergency responder programs.

Some police departments, such as in Los Angeles and San Antonio, have partnered with mental health professionals to work as "co-responders," assisting street cops responding to incidents involving a mental health crisis.

In Eugene, Oregon, two-person teams consisting of a medic and a crisis worker respond to calls of mental health crises through a program called Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS). In June, Denver also began piloting a program through a grant that sends a social worker and paramedic to emergency calls instead of police.

Big change is also on the horizon for July 2022. That's when the 988 national mental health hotline goes live. There is a U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and it’s a 10-digit number that will continue to serve as the infrastructure for the 988 shortcut.

Contributing: Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Walter Wallace protests: National Guard in Philadelphia, more violence