UPDATED: 5/31/20, 11:16 a.m.
Thousands of protesters took to Center City Saturday afternoon — the latest in a series of actions nationwide following Floyd’s death, which was captured on video. They did so despite warnings against gathering in large groups due to the coronavirus.
The peaceful protest from the morning was quickly brought to a halt when a police car was set on fire as demonstrators made their way past Broad and Vine streets. More car fires and vandalism soon erupted, along with fireworks.
Demonstrators also spent the better part of an hour trying to tear down the Frank Rizzo statue outside the Municipal Services Building — then set it on fire at least three times.
Protesters tied a rope around the Rizzo statue’s neck and appear to have covered his face and hands in red paint.
Many others — including officers — watched the chaos from as safe a distance as possible.
Philadelphia police are not engaging with protesters but trying to keep the peace. So far, there have been no instances of violent clashes.
Several hundred people also clustered at police headquarters along Race and Seventh streets. It appeared to be a group that had broken from one of the major groups of protesters earlier in the day.
They did not try to enter the building or break through a barrier of nearly a dozen officers.
Around 6:30 p.m., the Starbucks at Dilworth Plaza was completely set ablaze. Fire crews are trying to get through the crowds and smoke to the area.
Chants for justice has been replaced with chaos and destruction.
Amid the pandemonium, Philadelphia and surrounding counties are still in the “red” phase of the governor’s reopening plan for the coronavirus pandemic. The region is expected to move to “yellow” on Friday, but crowds have squished shoulder to shoulder, some not wearing face coverings.
Mayor Jim Kenney has issued a mandatory citywide curfew starting at 8 p.m. through 6 Sunday morning.
Elijah Glovas-Kurtz attended the earlier protest. While standing outside Roman Catholic High School, he watched protesters interact with officers.
“On Vine, that's where the main engagement is happening. There are some cops on bikes, and there's state troopers on foot, and there's riot police on foot,” he described. “They had everyone boxed in on both sides of Vine and on North Broad.”
“Racism does not end with the coronavirus at all,” said Jacen Bowman of Brewerytown. “Racism started before the coronavirus, it's going on during the coronavirus, and it will happen after the coronavirus.”
The death was captured on video, which went viral. Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Protests were held in Minneapolis and a number of other cities, including Detroit, San Jose, Atlanta, and New York, though many of those protests erupted into violence.
Protesters broke windows of businesses and banks near City Hall, like the Wells Fargo at 15th and Chestnut streets.
The Foot Locker and Modell’s on Chestnut Street are completely trashed. Overturned planters lay in the streets.
Mannequins are strewn about on the street as looters sift through the merchandise of various stores.
At a city briefing Saturday night, the mayor commended the initial protests that illustrated “our collective grief.” But the “anger” that followed “cannot and will not continue.”
“We all have reasons to be deeply disturbed by systemic racism that has plagued our society for far too long,” Kenney said. “But what's taken place today in our city and across the nation is unacceptable. None of today's acts of violence or damage to property will do anything to restore faith and trust between the police and communities of color.
“We'll continue to hold bad cops accountable and we'll those who committed these acts today accountable also. And we will continue to support the police officers who protect and serve our residents with dignity every single day.”
Kenney also commended the officers, who were spit on and had bottles of urine thrown at them.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw echoed the mayor in praising the initial protests, saying that demonstrators, approximately 3,000 at the event's peak, conscientiously exercised their constitutional rights.
"We appreciate their voice and the lawful manner in which they expressed their anger and frustration over the tragedies that continue to take place all over the nation," she said.
"However," she continued, "later in the afternoon and into the evening, others converged on Center City and committed numerous acts of vandalism and violence. The actions of those persons were unlawful and were not in furtherance of any noble or ethical issue or cause."
According to Outlaw, 13 police officers were injured "either while attempting to control crowds, make arrests, and prevent property breaches and other acts of vandalism, and also as a result of liquid and solid projectiles being thrown at them." There were also civilian injuries, though she did not have a specific number available at the time.
"Throughout the afternoon we have requested mutual aid support from Bucks and Montgomery counties, Abington Township, Pennsylvania State Police, SEPTA and various local universities," Outlaw added.
The commissioner also reported at least nine fires set to either vehicles or structures.
Later in the evening, a Philadelphia police officer on a bike was struck by a car near Seventh and Chestnut streets.