National Guard on standby for Philadelphia, other areas in Pa. during protests
National Guard requests have been ordered for Philadelphia and Montgomery County in response to a growing number of protests around the country against police violence.
The protests continued days after a Minneapolis police officer was charged with murder in the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man. Officer Derek Chauvin, 44, who is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck on May 25 as Floyd begged for air for several minutes, according to The Associated Press.
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is working with the National Guard and local law enforcement, PEMA Director Randy Padfield said Sunday.
"Overnight, our staff worked with the National Guard to mobilize and to stand by if needed for assistance today and throughout the evening hours tonight," Padfield said. "The National Guard resources are really to augment other things that would tie up law enforcement that they don't have the ability to do."
Padfield said the National Guard would be responsible for tasks such as access control and traffic control points if needed.
Gov. Tom Wolf, addressing Pennsylvania in a news conference on Sunday, said some people took advantage of the peaceful protests sparked after Floyd's death by inciting violence and looting.
“Every day, in every corner of our society, we need to work at eliminating racism," Wolf said in a news release. "That means we need to do our part to address racism – from the smallest thought to the biggest action – here in Pennsylvania, too.”
"Yesterday was a challenging day for the commonwealth," Wolf said in a news conference Sunday of recent protests that turned violent, including in Harrisburg and Philadelphia.
Officials in Philadelphia announced plans to close off much of the center of the city Sunday after peaceful protests 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 graffiti and other messages scrawled on the walls of City Hall.
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 vehicles and structures were set ablaze.
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.
On Saturday, Wolf signed a disaster emergency declaration to provide assistance to municipalities that request assistance in the event of protests escalating violently.
The same day, hundreds of protesters descended on the Capitol building in Harrisburg to protest.
The peaceful protest later turned violent, as police in riot gear clashed with protesters and, according to witnesses and social media reports, deployed what appeared to be pepper spray, according to Spotlight PA.
Wolf said he urges everyone who chooses to protest to have respect for their communities and neighbors.
"Please be safe today," Wolf said. "Speak your mind and speak it with peace. Do it in a way that honors democracy."
— Reach Tina Locurto at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.