Walter Wallace: Philadelphia braces for unrest as curfew declared

Tension has gripped the US city since Monday’s deadly police shooting of Walter Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man.

Demonstrators clash with riot police during a rally after the death of Walter Wallace Jr, a Black man who was shot by police in Philadelphia Bastiaan Slabbers/Reuters]
Demonstrators clash with riot police during a rally after the death of Walter Wallace Jr, a Black man who was shot by police in Philadelphia Bastiaan Slabbers/Reuters]

Philadelphia will impose a citywide curfew starting Wednesday at 9pm (02:00 GMT) as the city seeks to quell the looting and violence that marred two nights of protests against the police killing of a Black man who was under mental duress, the mayor’s office said on Wednesday.

The office of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement the curfew would run through Thursday at 6am.

Tension has gripped the streets of the city in the eastern United States 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.

Police said Wallace was wielding a knife and ignored orders to drop the weapon before officers fired shots on Monday afternoon. But his family’s lawyer said the family had called for an ambulance to get him help to deal with a mental health crisis. His parents said Tuesday that officers knew their son was in a mental health crisis because they had been to the family’s house three times on Monday.

Hundreds of marchers demanded racial justice – largely peacefully – with some jeering and skirmishing with police through Tuesday night and into early Wednesday, as Philadelphia became the latest flashpoint in the US on issues of race and police use of force just days before Tuesday’s presidential election.

US President Donald Trump was asked Wednesday about the violence while speaking in Las Vegas during a campaign swing through Nevada and Arizona. Authorities in Philadelphia say Wallace, a Black man, ignored orders to drop a knife, while his family says he was experiencing a mental health crisis.

Trump says, “You can’t let that go on. Again, a Democrat-run state, a Democrat-run city, Philadelphia.”

“There is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence. None whatsoever,” Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden told reporters as he exited a polling station in Wilmington, Delaware, where he cast a vote in the November 3 polls.

“I think to be able to protest is a totally legitimate, totally reasonable”.

The dead man’s father, Walter Wallace Sr, appealed to people on Tuesday to “stop the violence” out of respect for his son and family.

A demonstrator raises his fist during a rally after the death of Walter Wallace Jr, a Black man who was shot by police in Philadelphia on October 27 [Bastiaan Slabbers/Reuters]
“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”, Wallace said.

He also called for “justice” in a case still being investigated.

The upheaval in Philadelphia 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 said officers are too often called to scenes where social workers might be more helpful.

Source : Al Jazeera and News agencies

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