Another police-involved shooting, another “mostly peaceful” protest, and … another riot, this time in Philadelphia. After police shot a man who approached them with a knife and refused to put it down, hundreds of demonstrators marched in support of Black Lives Matter. That didn’t stay peaceful for long, CBS’ affiliate in Philadelphia reports, and at least thirty police officers got injured in the rioting:
Protesters upset over alleged police brutality took to the streets in Philadelphia overnight. This came hours after police shot and killed a man with a knife in West Philadelphia on Monday afternoon. Officers opened fire when they say the man walked toward them near 61st and Locust Streets, refusing to drop the knife.
The man who was shot and killed by police was identified as 27-year-old Walter Wallace, Jr. His killing led to a night of protests and riots in West Philadelphia.
On Monday night, a group of about 300 people marched through the streets of West Philly to protest the killing of Wallace Jr. However, they turned violent.
Police say 30 officers were injured, they include a 56-year-old female officer who was hit by a car at 52nd and Walnut Streets. Police say she suffered a broken leg.
Interestingly, CBS specifically reports that the demonstrators began the violence, a departure from the usual passive voice used by other media outlets. Normally, we hear that “violence broke out” or “reports of looting emerged.” Kudos to CBS Philly for clarity, and also to the CBS reporter from New York uses the exact same phrase to describe the initiation of the riots.
How spontaneous were these riots? Not particularly so, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Post. A local socialist group directed activists to police movements by monitoring police communications:
“Community call for protest at 7pm, Malcolm X Park,” the group tweeted Monday night after news started spreading of the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace after he refused to drop a knife.
Dozens answered the call, gathering at the park chanting “black lives matter” before marching on a police precinct, The Philadelphia Inquirer said.
Hundreds eventually gathered in West Philly, looting, torching police vehicles and attacking cops, leaving at least 30 injured — with Philly Socialists following almost every move online.
The “base-building socialist organization” spent the following hours until early Tuesday updating protesters on where police were — readily admitting it was coming from police scanners.
The group also called for “bodies needed” by “comrades” at some areas where there were clashes with officers.
That doesn’t sound spontaneous at all. In fact, it sounds not just like an organized effort, but potentially a criminal conspiracy to riot. To the extent that this group has connections to other groups — like Antifa, say — one could envision a RICO-type action, assuming that local prosecutors plan to charge the rioters themselves in the first place.
One video of the shooting that triggered the riots makes it appear to have been a reasonable use of force. According to witnesses, Wallace advanced on officers with a knife and refused to drop it, presenting a lethal threat that they met with lethal force:
The video which sparked that unrest shows two officers circling Wallace as he moves slowly toward them while allegedly carrying the blade. They eventually fired multiple shots in front of a crowd, including his mother, who came screaming toward his body on the street after the shooting. Officers said they yelled for Wallace to drop the knife, but he ‘advanced toward’ police with the blade, leading him to be shot ‘several times,’ a police spokesperson told AP.
It is not clear if he is carrying a blade in the video, but police and witnesses said that Wallace was carrying a knife. …
The victim’s father, Walter Wallace Sr, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that his son struggled with mental health issues and was on medication. ‘His mother was trying to diffuse the situation,’ he said. ‘Why didn’t they use a taser? He has mental issues. Why you have to gun him down?’
Police don’t use a taser in that situation for good reasons. One, tasers have a relatively short range — suspects have to be close to them to deploy a taser. Two, a suspect that close armed with a knife can kill quicker than a taser can take effect, especially with suspects wearing multiple layers of clothing. And three, tasers aren’t designed to stop lethal threats, but to deal with non-compliance or non-lethal threats. They aren’t universally effective enough to end lethal threats, nor were they designed to be. No one blames the father for asking that question in his grief, but the answers are obvious — as was the threat posed to officers and others in this instance, regardless of Wallace’s mental condition.
Police have yet to release their body-cam footage, but if it matches what was seen here, then it’s likely to be ruled justifiable. That will certainly provoke even more riots, but it’s not because of injustice — it’s because these groups are looking for excuses to commit rioting and political terrorism on the streets. And they are getting better organized for it, thanks to prosecutors who lack the will to follow up rioting with charges serious enough to start disincentivizing those practices.