Biden, Harris Condemn Philadelphia Rioting: ‘Looting Is Not a Protest, It Is a Crime’

Biden, Harris Condemn Philadelphia Rioting: ‘Looting Is Not a Protest, It Is a Crime’
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden grabs his mask after introducing his vice presidential running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), during their first press conference together in Wilmington, Del., on Aug. 12, 2020. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)
Janita Kan

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) have condemned the violence and looting that erupted in Philadelphia following the fatal police shooting of an armed African American man.

The city experienced a second night of unrest on Oct. 27 after the shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., who was armed with a knife and described by relatives as suffering from a mental breakdown, during an Oct. 26 confrontation with police officers.

Protests erupted hours after a bystander’s video of the shooting was posted on social media. The footage showed Wallace “advancing toward” two police officers who had their firearms drawn and warned him to put the knife down. The officers were backing up before the camera cut briefly away as gunfire erupted and Wallace collapsed.

Biden and Harris issued a joint statement on Oct. 27 reacting to the incident.

“Our hearts are broken for the family of Walter Wallace Jr., and for all those suffering the emotional weight of learning about another black life in America lost,” they said in the statement. “We cannot accept that in this country a mental health crisis ends in death. It makes the shock and grief and violence of yesterday’s shooting that much more painful, especially for a community that has already endured so much trauma.

“Walter Wallace’s life, like too many others’, was a black life that mattered—to his mother, to his family, to his community, to all of us.”

The former vice president and California senator also condemned the violence, which resulted in injuries to about 30 police officers. One was hospitalized with a broken leg after being struck by a truck.
Demonstrators face off with riot police during a rally in Philadelphia, Penn., on Oct. 27, 2020. (Bastiaan Slabbers/Reuters)
Demonstrators face off with riot police during a rally in Philadelphia, Penn., on Oct. 27, 2020. (Bastiaan Slabbers/Reuters)

“At the same time, no amount of anger at the very real injustices in our society excuses violence. Attacking police officers and vandalizing small businesses, which are already struggling during a pandemic, does not bend the moral arc of the universe closer to justice. It hurts our fellow citizens,” the statement says.

“Looting is not a protest, it is a crime. It draws attention away from the real tragedy of a life cut short. As a nation, we are strong enough to both meet the challenges of real police reform, including implementing a national use of force standard, and to maintain peace and security in our communities. That must be our American mission. That is how we will deliver real justice.”

Philadelphia police said that up to 1,000 people were involved in looting in the area of Castor and Aramingo avenues and urged residents to avoid the area after widespread demonstrations turned violent as night fell. Police have yet to detail the night’s arrests and injuries.

Unrest from the previous night led to 90 arrests, they said.

In a bid to quell the rioting, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, mobilized the National Guard, officials told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“The riots in Philadelphia are the most recent consequence of the liberal Democrats’ war against the police,“ White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement about the unrest. ”Law enforcement is an incredibly dangerous occupation, and thousands of officers have given their lives in the line of duty.

“All lethal force incidents must be fully investigated. The facts must be followed wherever they lead to ensure fair and just results,” she said. “In America, we resolve conflicts through the courts and the justice system. We can never allow mob rule.

“The Trump administration stands proudly with law enforcement, and stands ready, upon request, to deploy any and all federal resources to end these riots.”

Tom Ozimek and Jack Phillips contributed to this report.
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