Father of Black man killed by Philadelphia police urges calm after further unrest

28 Oct 2020 / 18:43 H.

PHILADELPHIA: The family of a Philadelphia Black man shot dead by police appealed on Tuesday for calm as a second night of protests over his death once again turned violent, with clashes between police and protesters and the looting of stores.

Tension has gripped the streets 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.

Hundreds of marchers demanding racial justice periodically skirmished with and cursed at police through the night and into early Wednesday, as Philadelphia became the latest flash point in the United States on issues of race and police use of force.

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 business elsewhere, in the city's Port Richmond section, aerial news video from WPVI television showed. At other times, police in riot gear shoved jeering protesters back from barricade lines.

The dead man's father, Walter Wallace Sr., appealed to 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 nine minutes.

The scene in Philadelphia resembled those in Minneapolis and other cities in recent months: a peaceful protest gives way after dark to looting and clashes with police.

The events have been leveraged for political purposes in the campaign for next Tuesday's presidential election, with liberals arguing for racial justice and police reform while conservatives decry the chaos and property damage.

Philadelphia and its largely minority population ranks as the largest city in Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state in the race between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Philadelphia police have yet to detail the night's arrests and injuries. Unrest the previous night had injured 30 officers and led to 90 arrests, they said.

The upheaval came hours after a bystander's video of the shooting was posted on social media on Monday.

The video showed Wallace approaching two police officers who had drawn their guns and warned him to put down the knife. The officers were backing up before the camera cut briefly away as gunfire erupted and Wallace collapsed.

Wallace suffered from bipolar disorder, and his psychological difficulties were relayed by his wife to the officers who encountered him before the shooting, a lawyer for his family said.

"I was telling police to stop. 'Don't shoot my son, please don't shoot my son,'" Wallace's mother, Catherine Wallace, told reporters. "They paid me no mind, and shot my son."

Advocates of police reform say officers are too often called to scenes where social workers might be more helpful.

John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5, defended the officers in a statement, saying, "These officers were aggressively approached by a man wielding a knife." — Reuters

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