In the week since George Floyd was killed when a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis, protests and demonstrations have erupted across the nation. That includes episodes over the weekend in Philadelphia that showcased peaceful crowds made up of those protesting police brutality, especially against black people, and that also saw hundreds arrested, businesses damaged, and clashes between civilians and local police forces.
In Philadelphia and cities across America, the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis unleashed decades of frustration with the mistreatment of black people by police. The smoke that hung over the city yesterday from burned stores and tear gas overshadowed the peaceful demonstrations of those who gathered earlier in the day and on Saturday to grieve Floyd’s death.
Although Center City was the focal point of the chaos Saturday night, it spilled into 52nd Street in West Philadelphia yesterday. Among the differences between the two settings is that 52nd Street is part of a business corridor that serves a predominantly black neighborhood where recent and controversial revitalization efforts have helped support storefront improvements and sidewalk merchants. Almost all the businesses on 52nd are small or locally owned, and about half are black-owned, according to Jabari Jones, the president of the West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative. As stores were looted, Philadelphia police fired tear gas. But by early evening, the police were shooting canisters at people who were simply standing on the street.
The peaceful protests that turned into unrest prompted questions about whether Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration and city police had adequately prepared for what unfolded yesterday. Officials ordered new restrictions on movement and the National Guard arrived in the city last night to bolster police deployment.
Gov. Tom Wolf left open the possibility that the violence in Philadelphia following the peaceful protests and grieving of Floyd’s death might mean that the city won’t be able to start loosening its coronavirus-related restrictions as originally planned on Friday.
Some counties in Pennsylvania are already in the “green” phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan, where people have been able to get haircuts, attend workout classes, and go out for drinks.
Tomorrow’s primary election in Pennsylvania will look a lot different from those of the past. The coronavirus pandemic shifted the primary from April 28 to June 2. Almost two million Pennsylvanians have requested mail-in ballots, with Democrats requesting mail ballots at higher rates than Republicans in every county. Plus, election day traditions won’t happen this year and many polling places won’t be open.
Even so, here are the races my colleagues are watching, from the state’s auditor general to the congressional races.
The tension that began during Saturday’s protests continued on Sunday, with both peaceful demonstrations and violence unfolding across the city. Here’s what it looked like.
“I don’t condone the looting and violence that took place over the weekend. But I certainly understand where it comes from ... And until people stop feeling the need to take to the streets to voice their discontent over how black people are treated in America’s criminal justice system, the risk that this kind of unrest will break out will remain.” — columnist Jenice Armstrong writes about this weekend’s protests.