Much of central Philadelphia to be closed off Sunday after violence

The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Officials in Philadelphia announced plans to close off much of the center of the city Sunday after peaceful protests over George Floyd's death turned into a night of destruction with store windows smashed near City Hall, merchandise taken from stores and police and other vehicles and structures set afire.

In Philadelphia, business owners, workers and volunteers got to work sweeping up broken glass and boarding up broken windows even as people could still be seen emerging from broken-into stores carrying bags. Crews were also cleaning up anti-police and other graffiti scrawled on the walls of City Hall.

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Mayor Jim Kenney said the destruction in Center City "saddened and disappointed me beyond words, and I'm sure it saddened every Philadelphian who takes pride in their city." He said those responsible "not only desecrated private businesses, they also desecrated the important message that was heard in the earlier peaceful protests."

Philadelphia police officers detain people during the Justice for George Floyd Philadelphia Protest on Saturday, May 30, 2020 in Philadelphia. Protests were held in U.S. cities over the death of Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, the first black woman to lead the department, said many of those responsible for injuries, vandalism and fires weren't acting in alignment with the peaceful protesters but with the intent to destroy "and quite frankly, those folks didn't look like me."

"So to hold up a "Black Lives Matter" sign and then use the destruction that they were committing in the name of Black Lives Matter is not only a slap in the face but is completely a setback for everything that's been accomplished by those who have been working to improve civil rights over the many many decades and those of us who are working internally to do our part to fix the issues within the criminal justice system," she said.

Outlaw said many of those more than 200 people were arrested, including 48 for burglary/looting and three for assault on police officers. Four city and state police vehicles were set afire and nine other fires were set to vehicles and structures.

Thirteen officers were left with injuries such as chemical burns, broken extremities and head injuries, with one still hospitalized after being struck by a vehicle. Police were working to confirm the number of civilians injured, she said.

Outlaw said much of Center City "from South (street) to Vine (street), from river to river' — from the Schuylkill River to the Delaware River — would be blocked off, affecting roads, bridges and expressway entrances and exits as well as the city's transit agency.

An 8 p.m. curfew in in the city would again be in effect Sunday night.

Kenney and other officials hailed thousands of volunteers who came out Sunday morning to help clean up the damage. "I hope that the story of May 30-31 isn't about what happened last night but about what happened this morning," Managing Director Brian Abernathy said.

WCAU-TV showed live aerial shots Sunday afternoon of crowds of people running into stores in northeast Philadelphia's Port Richmond section and emerging with armfuls of merchandise.

The mayor said the city would accelerate plans to move a statue of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo that was sprayed with graffiti Saturday by protesters who also tried to topple it and set a fire at its base. He said officials hoped to move it in "another month or so."

Rizzo, mayor from 1972 to 1980, was praised by supporters as tough on crime but accused by critics of discriminating against minorities. His 10-foot-tall bronze statue outside the Municipal Services Building, across from City Hall, has been defaced before and was to be moved next year.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a disaster emergency declaration Saturday authorizing the adjutant general of the state National Guard and the Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner to activate personnel to help cities.

Similar protests, many of which began peacefully and turned violent late Saturday, have been happening throughout the country in response to Floyd's death. Floyd, who was black, died Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck until he stopped breathing.