10:52 PM - June 12, 2020
10:52 PM - June 12, 2020

Recap: No curfew planned for Saturday protests in Philly

A family-friendly march was held on June 12, 2020, to show support for the Black Lives Matter Movement starting on East Passyunk Ave. and ending on Columbus Square Park. Marchers observe a time of silence to honor George Floyd and all the Black lives lost to police brutality and white supremacy.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
A family-friendly march was held on June 12, 2020, to show support for the Black Lives Matter Movement starting on East Passyunk Ave. and ending on Columbus Square Park. Marchers observe a time of silence to honor George Floyd and all the Black lives lost to police brutality and white supremacy.

In anticipation of large protests on Saturday in Philadelphia, the city will activate its emergency operations center but is not planning to impose a curfew or a general shutdown of Center City traffic.

Philadelphians may get a chance to weigh in on the stop-and-frisk policing strategy after a City Council committee on Friday advanced legislation that would put a question on the November ballot about the controversial practice.

The Philadelphia Historic Commission denied plans for a $20 million new police station in North Philadelphia on Friday, as activists in the city and across the country call for cuts to police funding while decrying police brutality following the killing of George Floyd.

More than 50 Philadelphians experiencing homelessness — supported by volunteers — have set up a protest encampment on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to call for the city to provide affordable housing. The protest started Wednesday morning. Since then, the encampment has grown, mostly through word of mouth and people who had to leave homeless shelters.

Read more of our coverage:

9:40 PM - June 12, 2020
9:40 PM - June 12, 2020

Tomb memorial at Washington Square hit with graffiti

The National Park Service said Friday that it is working to remove graffiti on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution at Washington Square.
National Park Service
The National Park Service said Friday that it is working to remove graffiti on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution at Washington Square.

The National Park Service said Friday that it was working to remove graffiti on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution at Washington Square.

The agency posted a photo on Facebook of the memorial with graffiti that says “Committed GENOCIDE” on the wall behind a statue of George Washington. The nation’s first president has long been criticized for having owned slaves.

The memorial, which includes an eternal flame, honors the thousands of soldiers who died in the Revolutionary War, and where “upwards of two Thousand soldiers" are buried, according to John Adams. A plaque on the tomb reads: “Beneath this stone rests a soldier of Washington’s army who died to give you liberty.”

In the Facebook post, which does not say when the graffiti was discovered, the agency said it tried cleaning the memorial but because of the nature of the limestone some paint remains.

The agency said it had retained a professional stone conservator and that it would take two weeks for the stone’s appearance to improve.

Preservation at Work: The National Park Service is working to remove this graffiti on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier...

Posted by Independence NHP, Edgar Allan Poe NHS & Thaddeus Kosciuszko NM on Friday, June 12, 2020

— Robert Moran

8:49 PM - June 12, 2020
8:49 PM - June 12, 2020

Photos: Family-friendly march on East Passyunk Avenue

— Charles Fox

6:32 PM - June 12, 2020
6:32 PM - June 12, 2020

Council committee advances legislation allowing voters to weigh in on stop-and-frisk

Philadelphians may get a chance to weigh in on the stop-and-frisk policing strategy after a City Council committee on Friday advanced legislation that would put a question on the November ballot about the controversial practice.

“Black people, black men in particular, and other people of color are almost certain to be stopped and frisked by police without reasonable suspicion” that the person participated in criminal activity, said Councilmember Cherelle Parker, who wrote the measure in January and said it has taken on added significance in the wake of the protests following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. “We have the perfect opportunity to hear the collective voice of our citizens on this important issue.”

Stop-and-frisk allows officers to search pedestrians they have a reasonable suspicion to believe has been or will be involved in a crime. Critics of the practice say it amounts to a mechanism for harassing minority communities and note that incident reports written by the police officers themselves frequently fail to establish that they had reasonable suspicion to stop subjects.

The Law and Government Committee, which is chaired by Parker, approved her legislation in a unanimous voice vote early Friday evening. If approved by the full Council and by voters, as is expected, the direct implications of the ballot question may be be limited because it calls for an end to “unconstitutional” stop-and-frisk, which by definition is already prohibited, and because it merely “calls on” on the Philadelphia Police Department to end the practice, rather than forcing it to take certain actions.

Councilmember Cherelle Parker speaks at a LOVE Park rally and protest this week to support sanitation workers requesting hazard pay and PPE.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Councilmember Cherelle Parker speaks at a LOVE Park rally and protest this week to support sanitation workers requesting hazard pay and PPE.

The legislation, however, comes at a time of heightened scrutiny for the department, following pledges by Mayor Jim Kenney, Council members and state lawmakers to pursue reforms addressing racial biases in policing. At the hearing, civil rights lawyers and researchers laid out the case for why changing or ending stop-and-frisk must be on the reform agenda.

Philadelphia’s use of the stop-and-frisk practice is regulated by a 2011 legal agreement known as the Bailey consent decree that, in part, requires the city to collect data on stops. David Rudovsky, a civil rights attorney who worked on the Bailey case, said the data have proven that unconstitutional stop-and-frisk remains a serious issue in Philadelphia.

Recent data show that 78% of stops and 89% of frisks are of racial minorities, despite those communities making up only 65% of the city’s population, Rudovsky said. Additionally, officers sometimes present justifications that pass legal muster but appear questionable, he said.

While campaigning for mayor in 2015, Kenney said he would end stop-and-frisk but reneged on that promise after taking office. The administration contends it is nonetheless moving the department in the right direction. In 2015, the year before Kenney took office, police made 213,870 pedestrian stops, and in about 110,000 of those, the officers were later deemed to have lacked reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, according to testimony by the city. Last year, officers made 76,937 such stops, and about 9,200 were deemed unconstitutional.

City Solicitor Marcel Pratt said the Kenney administration supports Parker’s legislation. “I support the elimination of unconstitutional stop-and-frisk, including the targeting of black men and other members of protected classes,” Pratt told the committee. “The truth is that some police do target people of color, particularly black men.”

— Sean Collins Walsh

4:46 PM - June 12, 2020
4:46 PM - June 12, 2020

Historical Commission rejects plans for new North Philly police station

22nd District police station, 17th and Montgomery is shown on Monday. In the midst public protests demanding major changes in police department culture, and criticism over the way the city's police budget is funded, the city is moving ahead with construction of a new district police building in North Philadelphia.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
22nd District police station, 17th and Montgomery is shown on Monday. In the midst public protests demanding major changes in police department culture, and criticism over the way the city's police budget is funded, the city is moving ahead with construction of a new district police building in North Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Historic Commission denied plans for a new police station in North Philadelphia on Friday, as activists in the city and across the country call for cuts to police funding while decrying police brutality following the killing of George Floyd.

In written and oral comments before and during the commission’s meeting Friday, about 130 people voiced their opposition to the proposed $20 million new home of the 22nd police district in the primarily black community.

Opponents condemned a lack of city engagement with the community about the station and the city’s focus on policing instead of expanding opportunities for social services, housing, and green space in the neighborhood.

The commission agreed with opponents that plans to relocate the district’s police station to 2100 Diamond St. did not fit with the residential feel of the Diamond Street Historic District and called the application inadequate in a 7-2 vote, with one abstention.

And members recognized residents’ frustration and anger over the project and the historic nature of the current moment, in which city residents have joined national protests over police violence and systemic racism.

— Michaelle Bond

4:41 PM - June 12, 2020
4:41 PM - June 12, 2020

No curfew planned in Philly for Saturday protests

In anticipation of large protests on Saturday in Philadelphia, the city will activate its emergency operations center but is not planning to impose a curfew or a general shutdown of Center City traffic.

The emergency operations center will be activated from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. to assist with public safety, the Center City District announced on Friday.

Motorists should expect rolling street closures as demonstrators move through city.

— Robert Moran

2:30 PM - June 12, 2020
2:30 PM - June 12, 2020

Trump calls George Floyd’s death a ‘disgrace,' but said cops shouldn’t be maligned over ‘bad apples’

President Donald Trump characterized largely peaceful protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death as “riots” and “unnecessary” and said police officers shouldn’t be maligned due to a few “bad apples” during a new interview that aired on Fox News Friday afternoon.

“You can call them protests, you can call them riots. Different nights, different things,” Trump said, citing early turmoil in Minneapolis and continued unrest in Seattle. He said some demonstrators “just didn’t know” why they were out protesting, and said many appeared to just be “following the crowd.”

During the wide-ranging interview, filmed on Thursday during the president’s trip to Dallas, Trump called Floyd’s death at the hand of Minneapolis police officers “a disgrace” and that acts like it had to end, but stopped short of offering solutions to solve the problem of police brutality towards African Americans.

“I don’t like chokeholds,” Trump said, but added he thought they could be necessary in some situations.

— Rob Tornoe

12:57 PM - June 12, 2020
12:57 PM - June 12, 2020

‘This is about to literally be a community of black lives matter’

Leonard Flowers was one of the first residents who set up his tent Wednesday on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where an encampment is calling on the city to provide affordable housing, and asked for volunteer support. His wife, Jonnell Flowers, came Wednesday, too, to help build the community.

“This is about to literally be a community of black lives matter,” said Jonnell. “This is for the people who got thrown to the wayside. We all matter. We came together to let the city and world know that we matter.”

The Flowers have been homeless for nearly a year, since their West Philadelphia residence burned down last August. They lost everything and have lived in tents since then. Seeing the community come together and witness the support from volunteers has been a “light at the end of the tunnel,” Jonnell Flowers said.

She was building a tent for books to be stored and asked for donations of reading material. She said she is also putting up signs on the trees to act as street names.

“This will literally be a neighborhood,” she said with a smile.

— Ellie Rushing

11:30 AM - June 12, 2020
11:30 AM - June 12, 2020

Protesters form encampment on Ben Franklin Parkway

More than 50 Philadelphians experiencing homelessness — supported by volunteers — have set up a protest encampment on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to call for the city to provide affordable housing.

The protest started Wednesday morning, when five people who set up their tents on 22nd Street and Ben Franklin Parkway approached a few volunteers and asked for support, said Alex Stewart, one of the volunteers. More than 50 volunteers came Wednesday, bringing food, clothes, and first aid supplies, he said.

Since then, the encampment has grown, mostly through word of mouth and people who had to leave homeless shelters.

“They repeatedly provided the city with demands for low income housing... and the city has refused to listen to them,” said Stewart.

“They also wanted medical support to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” he said.

City residents have donated health supplies like masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer, as well as other things like condoms, trash bags, and paper towels. People have donated porta-potties, solar-powered showers, tents, and tons of clothing, food, and water. There is also a tent of books and games for the residents to enjoy.

“God is so good,” one resident said as she approached the first aid tent.

“God is good, but this city sucks,” Stewart responded.

— Ellie Rushing

11:30 AM - June 12, 2020
11:30 AM - June 12, 2020

Wilmington removing Christopher Columbus, Caesar Rodney statues

Wilmington announced on Friday it is removing statues of Christopher Columbus and an iconic statue of Caesar Rodney, a signer of the Declaration of Independence whose name adorns schools, parks, and is featured on the state’s quarter.

In a statement, the city said the statues were being removed and stored to allow “overdue discussion” about the public display of historical figures and events. They also cited posted on social media indicating the statues were being targeted by protesters.

“We cannot erase history, as painful as it may be, but we can certainly discuss history with each other and determine together what we value and what we feel is appropriate to memorialize,” Mayor Mike Purzycki said in a statement. “In this period of awakening for our City, State, and country, we should be listening more to each other and building a more just City and a better America.”

The move comes after Columbus statues have been targeted by protesters across the country due to the famed explorer’s often-overlooked role launching the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1494. In Camden, city workers took down a statue of Columbus at Farnham Park Thursday afternoon.

Philadelphia is home to two Columbus monuments — a statue in Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia and a 125-foot obelisk at Penn’s Landing. So far, neither have been targeted by demonstrators.

— Rob Tornoe

10:55 AM - June 12, 2020
10:55 AM - June 12, 2020

Photos of defaced statue of Philly abolitionist Matthias Baldwin go viral

During the early days of unrest in Philadelphia stemming from the death of George Floyd, a statue of outspoken abolitionist Matthias Baldwin outside City Hall was defaced with the messages “colonizer” and “murderer.”

Nearly two weeks later, photos of the statue have gone viral online, causing some to think the vandalism occurred during peaceful protests in the city on Thursday. Fox News even aired a breaking news report about the graffiti Thursday.

The origin of the photos that have spread online are unknown. According to the city, the statue and others that were defaced during the weekend of May 30 — including a statue of former Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo that was subsequently removed — were immediately cleaned.

Mathias Baldwin statue safe , but some graffiti on base after protests

Posted by James Fennell on Thursday, June 11, 2020

“We can confirm that the statue of Matthias Baldwin, along with other statues in the area of Philadelphia’s City Hall, was tagged with paint and graffiti at some point during the first days of protests that took place in Philadelphia,” a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney’s office said. “There has been no subsequent vandalism of the Baldwin statue in recent days. So, while the Baldwin statue was in fact defaced, it did not take place yesterday as the tweet and accompanying image claim.”

Baldwin was an outspoken critic against slavery during the early 1800s, arguing for the right of African Americans to vote and founding a school in the city for black children. Baldwin’s statue was erected in 1906, and placed in its current spot outside City Hall in 1936.

— Rob Tornoe

9:15 AM - June 12, 2020
9:15 AM - June 12, 2020

Critical mistakes doomed the police response to Philly’s George Floyd demonstrations

A Philadelphia Police Patrol car on fire in front of Apple Store. Looters took to the streets of Center City Philadelphia during a protest against the death of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photograph from Saturday, May 30, 2020.
Alejandro Alvarez
A Philadelphia Police Patrol car on fire in front of Apple Store. Looters took to the streets of Center City Philadelphia during a protest against the death of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photograph from Saturday, May 30, 2020.

A day before unrest broke out in Philadelphia in the wake of George Floyd’s death, Philadelphia department leaders considered a comprehensive plan that devoted significantly more personnel to managing crowds on a day of large protests — an approach that the city had successfully relied on for a decade.

Instead, The Inquirer has learned, they chanced getting through the protest with minimal staffing.

The chaos of that initial day of protest — detailed in hours of radio recordings and hundreds of pages of police reports, along with interviews with police officials and witnesses — would bring the city to a standstill. The department’s fumbled planning would bleed into the next two days, leading to a disorganized response.

For nearly 60 hours, from Saturday afternoon to late Monday night, the Philadelphia Police Department fell into a state of confusion and disarray.

— David Gambacorta, Mike Newall, Jeremy Roebuck, and Chris Palmer

8:00 AM - June 12, 2020
8:00 AM - June 12, 2020

Trump defends racist phrase aimed at protesters by incorrectly citing Frank Rizzo

President Donald Trump attempted to defend the use of a racist phrase aimed toward protesters by incorrectly citing former Philadelphia mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo, whose tenure was marked by police brutality aimed at black communities.

During an interview on Fox News with Harris Faulkner Thursday, Trump defended the use of the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts" by incorrectly attributing it to Rizzo. Faulkner corrected the president, telling him the phrase was famously said by former Miami Police Chief Walter Headley, who used it to threaten civil rights protesters in the 1960s.

“Well, it also comes from a very tough mayor, who might have been police commissioner at the time, but I think mayor of Philadelphia named Frank Rizzo. And he had an expression like that,” Trump said.

While there’s no record of Rizzo saying that exact phrase, he did tell Esquire in a 1968 interview: “The man to go after is the one that shouts ‘Burn!’ or ‘Loot!’ He has to be taken on, and taken on good, and put right in short pants.”

“If you looked up racism and brutality in the dictionary, you’d find Frank Rizzo’s picture. He brutalized his citizens, particularly his citizens of color, and he celebrated that,” former Obama chief strategist David Axelrod said on CNN Thursday night. “He could not have invoked a worse symbol than Frank Rizzo, who is exactly what America is saying we need to leave in the past.”

On June 3, the city removed the infamous statue of Rizzo from outside the Municipal Services Building following massive protests. A mural of Rizzo in the Italian Market was painted over on Sunday. The Police Athletic League of Philadelphia removed Rizzo’s name from its community center in Port Richmond, saying it wants “to ensure all children and families feel welcome.”

— Rob Tornoe

7:45 AM - June 12, 2020
7:45 AM - June 12, 2020

More Black Lives Matter protests planned in and around Philly today

On what will be the 14th-straight day of protests in and around Philadelphia, a couple of demonstrations are planned in the city Thursday. They include:

— Rob Tornoe

7:30 AM - June 12, 2020
7:30 AM - June 12, 2020

Thursday recap: Philly could ban police kneeholds and chokeholds as protests continued for 13th-straight day

Protesters lay down at the intersection of Cecil B. Moore Ave., and North Broad Street near Temple University as police officers watch. Demonstrators protested the unjust treatment by police after the death of George Floyd.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Protesters lay down at the intersection of Cecil B. Moore Ave., and North Broad Street near Temple University as police officers watch. Demonstrators protested the unjust treatment by police after the death of George Floyd.

Police kneeholds and chokeholds would be banned in Philadelphia and newly recruited officers would be required to live in the city under legislation introduced Thursday, as City Council responded to demonstrators’ calls for reform after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Council members also introduced legislation that would create a new police oversight commission and require public hearings before the city approves police union contracts. Together, the bills represented Council’s first concrete steps toward changing policing in Philadelphia after days of protests. Mayor Jim Kenney released his own reform agenda Tuesday.

Camden city workers took down a statue of Christopher Columbus at Farnham Park, but residents who support its removal have taken possession of its pieces in an ongoing protest.

The Rev. Levi Coombs III, a leading proponent of getting rid of the statue and pastor of the nearby First Refuge Progressive Baptist Church, said he and about 30 other residents were guarding what remains of the statue at the park.

Coombs said residents had called for the statue’s removal for 40 years but were ignored until this week when it became a national issue as other statues of Columbus have been removed as part of the ongoing protests against racism.

Read more of our coverage of Thursday’s events:

7:00 AM - June 12, 2020
7:00 AM - June 12, 2020

Today’s front page

The front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer for Friday, June 12, 2020.
Philadelphia Inquirer
The front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer for Friday, June 12, 2020.