Philadelphia will impose a city-wide curfew starting Wednesday at 9 p.m. to try to quell the looting and violence that marred two nights of protests over the police killing of a Black man who was under mental duress, the mayor’s office said.
The curfew will run through Thursday at 6 a.m., the officer of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement.
Tension has gripped the streets of Philadelphia since Monday’s deadly police shooting of Walter Wallace, 27, who was armed with a knife and described by relatives as suffering from a mental breakdown, in a confrontation with law enforcement.
Philadelphia police have made 172 arrests and 53 officers have been injured in two nights of protests, according to the statement. Local TV coverage showed widespread looting of big-box stores and other businesses, some of which were still recovering from the unrest that swept the country in summer.
The demonstrations over Wallace’s death have turned Philadelphia into the latest flashpoint in the United States on issues of race and police use of force just days ahead of Tuesday’s presidential election.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who is seeking a second term in office, has made policing a top campaign issue, calling for a tough “law and order” stance on the protests. In Nevada on Wednesday, Trump called the events in Philadelphia “terrible” and offered to send federal help.
“What I’m witnessing is terrible and frankly that the mayor or whoever it is that’s allowing people to riot, and loot and not stopping them is also just a horrible thing,” he said.
Philadelphia, which has a large Black population, is the largest city in Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state in the race between Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who has said he supports the police but wants to address racial inequalities, among other issues.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said on Wednesday his administration stood ready to help the city with the unrest, including to “avoid unnecessary harm to businesses that provide services to affected neighborhoods.”
“We must address the systemic problems that cause tragedies against people of color,” Wolf said on Twitter.
On Tuesday, Wolf ordered several hundred National Guard officers to prepare to assist Philadelphia, although it can take 48 hours to mobilize for such an event, a spokesman said.
Tuesday’s rallies began peacefully but grew confrontational as darkness fell, just as on the previous day.
Police turned out in force to cordon off a West Philadelphia commercial district that was looted the previous night.
But looters broke into businesses elsewhere, including in the city’s Port Richmond section, aerial news video from WPVI television showed. At times, police in riot gear shoved protesters back from barricade lines.
The violence erupted despite the pleading of the dead man’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., who on Tuesday urged people to “stop the violence” out of respect for his son and family.
“I don’t condone no violence, tearing up the city, looting of the stores, and all this chaos,” he told reporters and a gathering of people. “It’s an SOS to help, not to hurt.”
He also called for justice in a case still being investigated.
The unrest in Philadelphia follows that in other cities where police have killed Black men.
Tensions have stayed high at demonstrations across the nation since the May 25 death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.