PHILADELPHIA — Hundreds have taken to the streets here to protest the Oct. 26 police killing of 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr. Two cops fired 14 shots at him in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of West Philadelphia. At the time he was with his mother in front of their home, with neighbors watching.
Walter Wallace Sr. said the family had called 911 for an ambulance after his son experienced a mental health crisis, but the cops arrived instead. The cops knew Wallace was having emotional difficulties, having been called to the house twice earlier that day. His mother, Cathy Brant, tried to calm things by pleading with her son to drop a knife he was carrying and begging the police to lower their weapons.
“I was telling the police to stop. ‘Don’t shoot my son, please don’t shoot my son,’” she told the media. “They paid me no mind and they just shot him.”
On a cellphone video taken on the spot, you can hear neighbors calling out, “He’s mental, he’s mental,” trying to get the cops to back off. At the same time, you hear police yelling, “Shoot him, shoot him.” Wallace is clearly seen several feet away from the cops when he was shot. Wallace, an African American, was a father of eight. His wife, Dominique Wallace, delivered their ninth child the day after he was killed. Wallace worked as an Uber Eats driver and as a rap artist who had written songs about Black rights protests and police brutality that neighbors played over loudspeakers after his death.
Despite calls to immediately release police body camera videos and 911 calls, Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney — prioritizing efforts to get a big turnout for Joe Biden over revealing the truth about the cop killing of Wallace — said they wouldn’t be released until the day after the Nov. 3 vote.
‘City needs to be held accountable’
“Everybody needs to be accountable for what they did. You did something wrong, you took a human life and have no remorse, that’s dangerous,” Wallace Sr. told a news conference Oct. 29. He called Kenney a “coward” for not apologizing on behalf of the city.
Protests against the killing began immediately and continued throughout the week. One march organized by the Black Clergy of Philadelphia ended with a community meeting at the Church of Christian Communion attended by the Wallace family, where the funeral will be held Nov. 7.
“I would like to see justice done for what they did to my son. I wouldn’t wish this on no one’s child, at all,” Wallace’s mother told the press. “I pray we all one day can come together and get along. Because this has got to stop. It’s really got to stop.”
At the Oct. 31 rally in Malcolm X Park, Osborne Hart, Socialist Workers Party candidate for Congress in the Third District, spoke with some of the protesters. “The cops should be charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The police can’t be ‘reformed’ in this capitalist society,” he told St. Joseph University student Donavan Gomez, one of 20 students from the school who came.
Clara Costello and Amalia Jaimer Lukes, students at Bryn Mawr College, said they came despite being discouraged by the school administration. Costello told the Militant that college officials said they would have to quarantine for two weeks if they went to the protest.
There has also been anti-working-class rioting and looting, vandalism and arson across the city, especially in the Black community shopping area along 52nd Street in West Philadelphia. An estimated 1,000 people tore through Walmart, Target, Foot Locker and other stores in Port Richmond, on the opposite side of the city. Hundreds of Pennsylvania National Guard were ordered in by Gov. Tom Wolf and a 9 p.m. citywide curfew was imposed by Kenney.
Wallace Sr. spoke out against the acts of violence. “It’s uncalled for, you know what I mean?” he said. “And the people that’s doing it, they’re not helping me and my family. They’re showing disrespect.”
“Why would you want to have a demonstration where people are afraid to come?” nursing home worker Reafa Carter told the Militant. “We need the kind of rallies where everyone, and their families, are welcome.”
At one Oct. 27 protest against Wallace’s killing, a few young men who are Orthodox Jews came to join in solidarity. But instead of being welcomed, they were told, “This ain’t your fight,” and “Get the f— out of here.” They were shoved and chased away by some in the crowd, including members of the Black Hebrew Israelites, spewing anti-Semitic words of hatred.
The Stop Antisemitism watchdog group wrote, “Fighting racism with antisemitism is not fighting racism. It’s just spreading more hatred.”