Mayor Jim Kenney and Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said yesterday that the police use of tear gas against people protesting was a “last resort,” while also criticizing how officers dealt with simmering vigilantism in Fishtown. Meanwhile, thousands continued to peacefully protest police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. Former Vice President Joe Biden was also in Philadelphia yesterday, giving a speech on the day when Pennsylvanians had the opportunity to vote for him and others in the primary election.
The past week of protests has brought up a conversation community leaders say Philadelphia has deferred for too long. The underlying message is about the generations of government-sanctioned racism, violence, divestment, and oppression that must end, and that this week of protests and riots must lead to substantive change.
And it’s a conversation that wasn’t made easier by some of what happened earlier this week. Elected officials and others are questioning why police rained tear gas on people in a demonstration on I-676 and the videos that surfaced of an officer ripping face masks off kneeling protesters to douse their faces with pepper spray. Some Fishtown residents said they were assaulted and threatened by men with baseball bats as Philly police stood by, and people damaged, set fire to, and robbed stores in the city and suburbs.
All of that has happened with the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led Kenney to propose layoffs and budget slashes to initiatives focused on youth violence prevention, workforce development, and arts and culture. But in that same budget, the Philadelphia Police Department is slated to get $14 million more than what the mayor originally proposed. The budget, activists say, symbolizes Kenney’s priorities.
On the day where Pennsylvanians had the chance to cast their ballots for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, ex-Vice President Joe Biden spoke in Philly about the converging crises of police brutality, protests, riots, and the coronavirus. He criticized President Donald Trump and promised to put racial equality at the forefront of his presidency.
But those who wished to vote for Biden and others experienced an unprecedented primary election day in Pennsylvania, where the coronavirus pandemic led to record numbers of mail-in ballots. In part because of that, we won’t have the full results right away. But here’s a rundown of primary-related news from the region, including four polling locations in Northwest Philly that got the wrong voting machines.
The tone in Philadelphia was decidedly different from previous days, as protests and actions continued across the city. Here’s what it looked like.
“Officers told us we would all be issued citations but would be free by the end of the night. I was shaky, but I knew that as a white woman, I would probably be fine, and I knew that for many others around the country, that wasn’t always the case.” — reporter Kristen A. Graham writes about her experience of being arrested while covering protests and the police in Philadelphia yesterday.