As protests turn violent for a second night, Walter Wallace's father urges calm


Jeff Neilburg Via Delaware Online

PHILADELPHIA – A second night of unrest had city officials urging residents in areas west and north of Center City to remain indoors as widespread protests turned to violence and looting across the city a day after police officers here killed a Black man who was armed with a knife.

The Pennsylvania National Guard is being mobilized to the city to quell protests and riots for the second time in five months.

While the center of the protests Tuesday night was near where 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr. was killed in West Philadelphia, police said more than 1,000 people were looting businesses in the Port Richmond section of the city. Police said there was a double shooting there that left two teens wounded.

Around 500 people gathered in Malcolm X Park at 51st and Pine streets Tuesday night around 7 p.m. for a protest organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation and also attended by leaders of Black Lives Matter Philadelphia. 

Speakers called for defunding police and abolishing police. They wondered why officers couldn't use a Taser or other deescalation methods rather than shooting him more than 10 times.

Days before the presidential election, some speakers also denounced both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Just before 7:30, hundreds of people filled the streets of West Philadelphia and started marching, eventually reaching the 18th District police precinct at 55th and Pine streets. There, dozens of officers in riot gear and shields stood behind a barricade as protesters surrounded them.

An activist named Michael "O.G. Law" Ta'Bon brought what he called a "mobile community center," a shed attached to the trailer of a truck that was armed with basketball hoops and voter information.

"I can't believe police can't just one time admit when they're wrong," he said. "Now an ex-con has to come out here and explain things the right way."

Using a microphone, Ta'Bon spoke to officers along the barricade about racism and policing.

"I've got a mic because God gave me a mouth before Smith & Wesson gave you a gun," he told officers.

Shortly after 9 p.m., a large portion of the crowd gathered at the precinct went back on the move to 52nd Street. At one point, about a dozen officers were forced to retreat west on Delancey Street as protesters started throwing objects at them.

Dozens of officers on bicycles and in vehicles then headed north on 52nd toward Market St., where protesters and police officers clashed and some were arrested as police used batons and pepper spray.

That location was the site of much of the unrest Monday night. Police said 91 people were arrested Monday night and 30 officers were injured. It's unclear how many people were arrested Tuesday night.

The shooting of Wallace, an aspiring rapper and father of nine, occurred before 4 p.m. Monday as officers responded to a report of a person with a weapon, police spokesperson Tanya Little said.

They arrived at the 6100 block of Locust St. in the city's Cobbs Creek section, a predominantly Black neighborhood. There, they encountered the man – later identified as Wallace – who was holding a knife, Little said.

Officers ordered Wallace to drop the knife, but he instead “advanced towards” them. Both officers then fired “several times,” Little said.

Wallace was hit in the shoulder and chest. One of the officers then put him in a police vehicle and drove him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later, Little said.

The officers were wearing body cameras and were taken off street duty pending the investigation.

A lawyer representing the family told reporters Tuesday night that Wallace had mental illness and had been taking lithium. Police officers responded twice to the Wallace residence Monday before returning a third time. Wallace's brother reportedly called 911 looking for an ambulance.

After attending a community meeting at a church on the block where Wallace was killed, his family spoke to reporters.

While nearby blocks were home to clashes between protesters and police and businesses were looted across the city, Walter Wallace Sr. denounced the looting and violence.

“They’re not helping my family, they’re showing disrespect,” Wallace Sr told reporters. “Stop this violence and chaos. People have businesses. We all got to eat.”

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