City and state legislators, police commanders, and community residents gathered Tuesday morning in Southwest Philadelphia to denounce the weekend vandalism of the mural of slain Sgt. Robert Wilson III, calling the spraying of anti-police graffiti on the public art installation “blatant disrespect” of a man who gave his life for the city.
Standing in front of the large mural of Wilson, which had been scrubbed of the graffiti, officials including Mayor Jim Kenney, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, and State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams took turns criticizing the unknown vandals who defaced the painting with the acronyms “ACAB” (“all cops are bastards”) and “FTP” (“f— the police”).
Speakers including Williams said that although the nation is in the midst of a reckoning over racial injustice and the role law enforcement plays in society, vandalizing a portrait of a slain city cop was not a proper path forward.
“Enough of the nonsense. Enough of the fake activism on both sides,” said Williams, a Democrat.
He noted that Wilson grew up in the neighborhood around the mural, at 61st Street and Baltimore Avenue, and was a Black man from a predominantly Black neighborhood who chose to serve his city — the type of officer who should be an example amid calls to reform police.
Shaki’ra Wilson-Burroughs, Wilson’s sister, lamented that she had to speak out again publicly in defense of her brother, who was fatally shot when he was buying his son a gift at a North Philly game store on March 5, 2015, and interrupted a robbery in progress.
“This should not have happened,” Wilson-Burroughs said, her voice trembling at times with anger.
Outlaw cast the defacing as one of several targeting police in recent weeks, referencing incidents including the vandalism of patrol cars with similar acronyms, and the arson of other police vehicles. She did not provide information about possible suspects, or say if the previous crimes might be linked to the vandalism of Wilson’s mural.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 is offering an $11,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, an outspoken supporter of the police reform movement sweeping the country, said vandalism was not the type of action supported by advocates pushing for greater fairness, equity, and accountability in law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
Spray-painting Wilson’s mural, she said, “is not solidarity, that is not activism. That is cowardice and malice.”
Last year, a different mural of Wilson in Strawberry Mansion was vandalized. The case remains unsolved, and the police union has offered a $32,500 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Wilson, a 30-year-old father of two, was described as a hero for his actions in the GameStop store, in which he likely saved the lives of patrons as two brothers fired a barrage of shots.
Outlaw called defacing of his mural “the exact opposite of everything Rob stood for.”