The West Philadelphia community rises in protests after the death of Walter Wallace Jr. at the hands of the Philadelphia Police Department on Oct. 26.
Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man armed with a knife, was fatally shot by police officers on the 6100 block of Locust Street on Monday afternoon, some blocks away from Drexel’s campus. Family members and neighbors questioned the shooting, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, while city officials said an investigation was underway. The Wallace family’s lawyer said that they called 911 for an ambulance, not police officers, to de-escalate his spiraling mental health, the Inquirer reported.
After the fatal shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., over 1,000 protestors gathered in West Philadelphia over the past three days — some peaceful and some turning to rioting. On Tuesday, protestors marched to the 18th District Police Headquarters, only a few blocks away from where Wallace Jr. was killed. On Tuesday evening, crowds gathered at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia. Both crowds of protestors encountered the police armed with riot gear, arresting dozens.
Police officers arrested 172 people with felony and misdemeanor charges on the first evening into the morning after Wallace Jr.’s death, and 81 more people were arrested Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning.
A total of 23 law enforcement officers were injured the first night, and 53 officers the following evening. One officer sustained severe injuries after being intentionally run over by a protester’s truck. Said protestor is being charged with multiple offenses and is being held on bail for almost $1 million, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Inquirer also reports that stores across the city have been looted and vandalized, 17 fire cars and nine police cars have been damaged, approximately 10 ATMs have been exploded and a shooting left two teens wounded. Whether this shooting had any relation to the protests is yet to be determined.
President John Fry sent an email to the Drexel community on Oct. 27, a day after the shooting, mourning the death of Wallace Jr. and sending condolences to his family.
“There have already been too many deaths of too many people, too much injury and too much pain, both here in Philadelphia and around our nation,” Fry wrote. “In the face of the anger, frustration and fear many rightly feel, I hope we can find ways to support one another in the caring spirit of community that sustains us as a university.”
Fry also wrote in his email that he was joining other leaders in calling for an end to further violence.
“As the investigation of this case goes forward, we know that the path to substantive change is through peaceful protest and a collective commitment to systemic improvement,” Fry wrote.
Additionally, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Norma Bouchard sent an email statement to all the students of her college demanding answers from the Philadelphia police on Wallace Jr.’s death.
“The fatal shooting of a civilian in West Philadelphia by the Philadelphia Police Department raises troubling questions that must be thoroughly investigated and answered,” Bouchard wrote. “Walter Wallace, Jr., is the latest in a too-long list of Black victims of police violence, and video footage of the confrontation demands that we determine whether the police responded with excessive force.”
In response to the violence, looting and large numbers of protestors, residents in the 12th, 16th, 18th, 19th, 24th, 25th and 26th policing districts were advised to remain inside on Tuesday evening. After another day of protests, a curfew was set from 9 p.m. on Wednesday evening to 6 a.m. on Thursday morning, and Governor Tom Wolf requested several hundred National Guard troops to assist the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, according to Penn Live.