Looting, Violence Drown Out Peaceful George Floyd Protests in Philadelphia

At times in the Center City sector, people cleaned up storefronts while others simultaneously continued to loot

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Looting drowned out peaceful protests Sunday in Philadelphia as another day of violence followed demonstrations over the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis

The Philadelphia protests, which began Saturday, were part of national outrage sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died after pleading for breath as a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

On Sunday in Philadelphia, at least 91 people were arrested for code violations, one person for assault on police, one person for propulsion of missiles, one person for rioting, one person for vandalism and 43 people for looting and burglary.

A citywide curfew went into effect at 6 p.m., with SEPTA shutting down all services.

In West Philadelphia Sunday, people broke the windshields of various police vehicles, setting one on fire near the intersection of 52nd and Market streets. Firefighters also responded to a building fire near 52nd and Walnut streets, the same area where stores were looted, including a Foot Locker.

At least five police officers were injured after being struck by rocks, bricks and molotov cocktails. Responding officers used tear gas and fired rubber bullets to disperse some of the crowd.

Sunday night, more people were spotted looting Hair Town on the 5600 block of Vine Street.

Looters also damaged stores on City Avenue, including a Target and a Wine and Spirits state liquor store in Overbrook.

NBC10's SkyForce10 helicopter captured video over Philadelphia's Hunting Park section of police officers clashing with a crowd of people on Broad Street and Hunting Park Avenue. Some members of the crowd were placed in handcuffs for failing to disperse and violating the city's curfew.

In South Philadelphia, members of the community group "Taking Back Philly Streets" lined up with police officers to prevent looters from entering a Target store.

In Kensington, fire consumed a row of stores along the 3000 block of Kensington Avenue early Monday after looting targeted businesses nearby earlier in the night. Firefighters said it was too soon to see if the fire was intentionally set.

The incidents were part of continued unrest in Philadelphia following violence and looting overnight.

Mayor Jim Kenney's first order of business Sunday morning was locking down much of Center City to prevent more damage.

"We're locking down Center City today and tonight and probably extend the curfew," Kenney told NBC10 as he and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw surveyed the area. The closures were in place for vehicle traffic on all streets, river-to-river, from Vine to South streets.The Benjamin Franklin Bridge leading into Philadelphia was also closed.

Around 2:30 p.m., the city ordered all retail businesses immediately closed to better allow for the enforcement of a curfew. Amid multiple instances of looting, the city moved up the curfew to 6 p.m. instead of the prior 8 p.m.

The curfew will last through 6 a.m. Monday. During that time, only people doing essential work or seeking police or medical help will be allowed to leave their homes.

Kenney said that many of those arrested Saturday night were from outside Philadelphia, and he called them “anarchists” and “right-wingers,” all the while praising the restraint shown by the city’s police department.

PHOTOS: Looting, Violence Erupt After Peaceful Protest in Philadelphia

Still, an uneasy tension remained on Sunday and eventually boiled over.

In anticipation of more protests, Outlaw said the city had requested support from the National Guard and entered into mutual aid agreements with surrounding police departments. Officers from the other agencies guarded buildings while Philadelphia Police Department officers patrolled the streets.

President Donald Trump also called for "law and order" for Philadelphia in a Tweet Sunday afternoon.

Unlike Saturday, police on Sunday were prepared to "set the tone early," Outlaw said. Nonetheless, looting continued in broad daylight and spread to various parts of the city.

In Port Richmond, people darted into and out of a Snipes store carrying armloads of clothes and shoes before police arrived. A similar scene played out at a Foot Locker as people stole boxes of shoes in the same section of the city.

At times, police were vastly outnumbered during futile attempts to make arrests, arriving at certain stores only to see looters flee and ransack other businesses.

Like Kenney, Outlaw expressed support for those outraged at the racial disparities in the country, but decried the violence and theft. She praised the multiracial peaceful demonstrations early Saturday, but said those who used violence later in the day and into Sunday, "don't look like me."

As the first African American woman police commissioner in the city, her words were especially poignant.

“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 it’s completely a setback for everything that’s been accomplished by those who have been working to improve civil rights over the many a many a decades, and those who are working internally to do our parts to fix the issues within the criminal justice system,” Outlaw said.

Center City, renowned for housing the city’s upscale shopping district but also home to many residents, awoke Sunday to shattered glass, scattered debris and the charred aftermath of multiple fires that had erupted the night prior.

As the citywide curfew from Saturday night lifted, some residents ventured outside, carrying brooms and trash bags as they cleaned up the damage.

“I thought, ‘This is my neighborhood, I have to clean up. This is the right thing to do,’” one woman told NBC10 as she knelt and stuffed loose papers into the white plastic bag in her hand.

Kenney praised those who took the time to clean up the city.

"Residents turned out in great numbers, with their brooms and shovels and trash bags, on their own to help clean up. They devoted their time and energy on a Sunday morning to restoring their city," he said.

Other people walked through the streets and simply surveyed the trash, clothes, shoes and boxes strewn on the ground and the graffiti that decorated buildings.

Still others continued to loot. At the Modell’s store on Chestnut Street, a police officer scared off some would-be thieves. When he left, they returned.

Such was the case the day prior, too, as what began as peaceful demonstrations over the death of George Floyd devolved into chaos. Floyd, who pleaded for breath as a white officer knelt for nearly nine minutes on his neck despite the man being handcuffed, died on the ground. His death has sparked nationwide protests, both peaceful and violent, over police brutality and racial inequities in the U.S.

For hours in Philadelphia Saturday, looters ransacked parts of Center City while others set fires to police vehicles and at least one store. Outnumbered, police held back until late into the night.

“The country needs to see this. I’m telling you, you’re going to have to extract something deeper,” one man shouted as police pushed back crowds.

“This is the pain that’s been taking place for how long? For how long? For how long?” he asked, backpedaling and raising his hands as an officer raised a nightstick across his chest. “This is why people are angry,” the man wailed.

One of the flashpoints Saturday was the Municipal Services Building, where protestors defaced and attempted to topple a controversial statue of former police commissioner and mayor Frank Rizzo, known for his harsh treatment of minorities and "tough on crime" approach.

Kenney said Sunday that he did not approve of the statue and that the city would "accelerate" its removal.

By Sunday morning, more than 207 people had been arrested and more than a dozen officers had been injured, one of whom was still hospitalized after being run over by a car, Outlaw said.

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