I witnessed the unrest on 52nd Street firsthand this afternoon, and it was a terrifying ordeal. We cannot allow this to continue.
There were many youth that began gathering along the corridor earlier this afternoon. At first things appeared calm, but it quickly turned into a standoff, with protesters throwing bricks and other objects in the direction of the police. As protesters became more aggressive, police ratcheted up their aggression and intimidation, including calling in tanks and riot police with paramilitary gear. Police began setting off tear gas, and things quickly got out of control. People started looting businesses, and set at least one store on fire. It’s still going on as I write this message.
The 3rd District is a vibrant community, and 52nd Street is at its heart. It is tragic to see our own small businesses — the lifeblood of this neighborhood — being destroyed. And I’m terrified for these youth, because I don’t want them to get hurt in the process.
I understand the outrage. I have two black sons, and I know that George Floyd’s story is a Philadelphia story, too. Over decades and centuries, Black Philadelphians have been targeted and persecuted by law enforcement, leading to loss of property, incarceration, and death. We have all reached a boiling point.
I am looking forward to tomorrow, though: to rebuilding, and to generating real, substantive change. We as City leaders must hear what people are angry about and respond — not just placate and go back to business as usual. None of us is going to get beyond this anger if we don’t address it at the root. Everyone has to reckon with this, and no one can afford to look away.
I pray for peace in this city, and for a day when we can finally overcome the deep racial divides and inequities that have plagued us for far too long.