As the US city of Philadelphia continues to witness mass protests over the fatal police shooting of a Black man, Walter Wallace Jr., city officials imposed a curfew and called in federal troops to subdue the unrest. The night-long curfew order passed by mayor Jim Kenney was in effect from 9 pm on October 28, Wednesday, and continued until Thursday morning. The curfew imposition, along with a request to deploy the National Guard, in the city came within hours of president Donald Trump’s offer to send in federal troops.
The curfew order followed two days of agitations in the city after Wallace was shot dead on October 26. Philadelphia had already seen a huge wave of protests as part of the nationwide movement against police violence that was triggered by the killing of George Floyd in May.
The recent shooting had led to massive demonstrations, bringing the city to a standstill since Monday. Mayor Kenney’s decision to call in federal troops was supposedly prompted by reports of looting and arson in the city.
27-year-old Wallace was reportedly shot dead by the police for wielding a knife while suffering from what his family members have described as a mental breakdown. His family has stated that Walter was suffering from mental health issues and that an ambulance had already been called to deal with the situation.
The Wallace family also stated that the police were well-aware of his situation as they had visited him thrice before the incident, including earlier on the day of the shooting. “The man was suffering. He was on doctor’s care. He was on a regimen of lithium, etc., and the police were here earlier that day,” said family attorney Shaka Johnson.
Meanwhile, there are growing calls to significantly limit the powers of the police. A recent proposal to limit the police’s mandate in traffic violations is already taking shape in the city council. The Driving Equity Bill, planned to be tabled by next week by council member Isaiah Thomas, will seek to significantly reduce the police’s role in traffic violations, pretty much barring it from stopping and searching cars in cases of minor violations.
Speaking in support of the bill, chief public defender Keir Bradford-Grey said that the shooting “has sought to agitate the Black community, to the point where they do not want to work with police officers to solve crime in their neighborhoods because they’ve been the target of police intrusion in their lives.”
Activists have also been raising calls for defunding the police and limiting their mandate to avoid police intervention in non-violent cases.