The looting and protests that roiled Philadelphia on Sunday spilled into some of the suburban counties that border the city, leaving residents shaken and police departments on alert.

And as Monday dawned, business owners began the tedious work of picking up the pieces of what remained after angry demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

From small-town business corridors to retail behemoths like the King of Prussia Mall, the damage was apparent. In some towns, police pulled long nights, keeping roads blocked after catching wind of looting plans on social media. In others, police prepared to continue that vigilance Monday night, bracing for — but hoping against — a repeat of the weekend.

Along Upper Darby’s 69th Street corridor, just over the border between Delaware County and Philadelphia, the damage was sporadic. Businesses ravaged by looters stood next to ones left untouched.

Outside Cole’s Fine Jewelry, the store she’s operated in the township for 48 years, Gercia Goldberg wept Monday morning. She was upset by the damage done to her business, but touched by the reaction from neighbors, who came to help her clean up.

“So many people came to my rescue," the 83-year-old said. "It makes me cry more than when I saw the window.”

Looters pushed the slits of her metal gate open and broke the window to steal rings in a display. They stopped there, unable to breach the store.

“Forty-eight years, then a pandemic, and now this,” Goldberg said. “How are you supposed to survive?”

At a news conference in front of the Tower Theater on Monday, city and county officials said several hundred — if not a thousand — people looted for more than 10 hours along 69th Street from Ludlow to Walnut Streets, beginning around 4 p.m. Sunday. Officials said many are believed to have come from nearby West Philadelphia, where widespread looting was seen on 52nd Street, a longtime business district for the neighborhood.

“We were seeing an influx of that crowd coming into Upper Darby and we were also seeing the crowd that was here going back into Philadelphia,” said police Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt. “So it was almost a revolving door, a volley back and forth throughout the day with protesters coming up right here through Market Street.”

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said while rumors swirled on social media Sunday about looting and activity in other Delaware County municipalities, there were no other founded reports.

On the other side of Philadelphia, Police in Bensalem Township, the Bucks County municipality adjacent to Northeast Philadelphia, spent Sunday night on patrol, chasing vandals away from businesses.

Officers there were first called to assist city police at the Philadelphia Mills Mall around 8 p.m., according to Police Superintendent Fred Harran. Later, as looters drove deeper into the suburbs, the officers responded to the Neshaminy Mall for reports of a break-in at the Sears store there.

“To their surprise, they were met with an empty store, because Sears has been closed for about two years,” Harran said. “Thank God criminals are not that smart.”

Harran said his officers made about 10 arrests overnight Sunday, some at the mall, and some at the Fun Center Powersports on Bristol Pike, which was also vandalized.

“People see the suburbs and think it’s easy pickings. They got educated,” Harran said. “Here, if you break into a store, you will get arrested.”

Businesses along Phoenixville's downtown shopping district, including The Colonial Theatre, were blocked by trash trucks and other municipal vehicles Sunday night. Borough officials had caught wind of potential acts of "civil unrest" by people protesting the killing of George Floyd.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Businesses along Phoenixville's downtown shopping district, including The Colonial Theatre, were blocked by trash trucks and other municipal vehicles Sunday night. Borough officials had caught wind of potential acts of "civil unrest" by people protesting the killing of George Floyd.

Officials in other municipalities bordering the city enacted mandatory curfews on Sunday, including Upper Merion Township in Montgomery County. They extended the curfew Monday, placing it in effect from 8 p.m. through 6 a.m. Tuesday, and from 9 p.m. Tuesday through 5 a.m. Wednesday.

The measure was taken after 12 people were arrested late Saturday trying to break into the King of Prussia Mall. They were ultimately unsuccessful, according to police, but caused exterior damage to restaurants near the mall, as well as an AT&T store.

In a statement, Upper Merion officials said they “strongly condemn” acts of violence, while supporting the peaceful protests.

“The act of protesting has been used for centuries to express feelings and inspire change,” the statement said. “Violence, rioting, and looting do nothing to advance any just cause, and ultimately undermine the gravity and sincerity of those who peacefully protest injustice.”

Some municipalities, wary of these and other reports, shut down their roadways Sunday night. Police in Phoenixville, a Chester County borough of about 17,000, took that precaution amid rumors on social media that “civil unrest” was heading toward them.

Mayor Peter Urscheler said Monday that officials used municipal trash trucks and other vehicles to block roadways in the historic downtown shopping center, and kept close watch on shopping centers and grocery stores — areas to which people could travel and park their vehicles.

“It’s not people who want to have meaningful conversations, peaceful demonstrations, or protests. We have a long history of supporting and encouraging those,” Urscheler said. “Our concern is that people are trying to target communities to create havoc.”