On Tuesday evening, a racially diverse crowd gathered at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia, near the neighborhood where Wallace was shot and killed by police on Monday. The group wound through residential streets until their path collided with a line of police officers in riot gear. Protesters chanted directly to the police.
“Who killed Walter Wallace?” they asked. “No justice, no peace! No racist police!”
Wallace died Monday after two Philadelphia police officers shot him multiple times while responding to a call reporting a man with a knife. His family said he suffered from mental health issues, which his doctors had been treating with medication. A lawyer for the family told the Associated Press Tuesday that Wallace’s relatives had called for an ambulance to take him to the hospital for medical care, but police showed up instead.
A video of the fatal encounter raised questions about why officers approached an apparent mental health crisis with guns drawn and why they did not first attempt to subdue Wallace with a less lethal weapon, such as a Taser.
“We’re out here to decimate the system that’s meant to decimate us,” said Mikal Woods, a 24-year-old Black man who lives in the West Philadelphia neighborhood that has been rocked by the shooting and subsequent protests. “They shot that man to kill him. Fourteen times.”
“I’ve been afraid of the police every day of my life,” he added.
Some pockets of the city’s demonstrations remained calm as late evening turned to night. As protesters marched, a truck lit up with photos of Wallace rolled through a largely peaceful crowd in West Philadelphia. A neon message displayed on its rear doors read: “I don’t hate cops. I hate that cops don’t speak against the killing of Blacks by cops.”
Pascale Vallee, a 34-year-old graduate student studying public health, said that the killing of Wallace was “shameful.”
She said she saw his death as “the intersection of so many ‘-isms’: Racism, ableism.”
“He needed social supports,” she added, “not bullets.”
A large protest also broke out in New York on Tuesday night, as demonstrators gathered in Brooklyn. People shattered windows at several stores, lit fires and sprayed graffiti on a police van, the New York Daily News reported. New York police arrested about 30 people before the protests largely broke up.
As the protests spread out from West Philadelphia into several other parts of the city and grew increasingly volatile late Tuesday, the Philadelphia Police Department issued a request for residents near the unrest to stay home and remain indoors.
“These areas are experiencing widespread demonstrations that have turned violent with looting,” the city’s Office of Emergency Management said in statement on Twitter Tuesday night.
According to a statement by the Philadelphia Police Department, people in the large crowd began to loot businesses near Castor and Aramingo Avenues in north Philadelphia just before 9 p.m.
Helmeted police armed with batons and cops with large riot shields took an aggressive posture against demonstrators and media Tuesday night, breaking up large groups with targeted arrests after identifying accused brick and bottle throwers.
Protesters who yelled for the arrested to say their names as they were being detained with met with taunts from police: “His name is caught,” one officer responded. Other officers called demonstrators “motherf—–s” as they shoved them with batons.
By 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, the protests near 52nd Street were broken up by police, who detained and arrested dozens as they marched toward angry crowds. Officers chanted, “Move, back! Move, back!” and repelled rocks, bricks, kicks and shoves with scuffed plastic shields and batons. It is unclear how many arrests were made overnight.
Police said a shooting that injured two teenagers may have been connected to looting near Castor and Aramingo Avenues, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Philadelphia police did not release any additional details on the how the shooting happened, a possible motive, or who was involved.
Walter Wallace Sr., the father of the man killed by police Monday, denounced the looting Tuesday evening.
“They’re not helping my family, they’re showing disrespect,” Wallace Sr. told the Inquirer. “Stop this violence and chaos. People have businesses. We all got to eat.”
Tuesday night’s tension between protesters and police is nothing new, said Charles M., a local middle school math teacher who declined to give his last name.
“West Philly and the cops have had a problem for a long time,” he said.
The teacher, who is Black, stood to the side of the crowd, scanning it.
“My main reason for being out here is making sure people don’t mess it up,” he said.
He was on the lookout for “agitators,” who he said were generally white people dressed in all black with their faces covered. A cohort meeting this description did later wind through the crowd.
“They’re the ones that spray paint, they’re the ones that throw bricks,” he said. “When you talk with them, engage with them, they split.”