PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Gov. Tom Wolf has activated Pennsylvania's National Guard ahead of closing arguments in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Wolf said Friday night more than 1,000 National Guard troops will be deployed to Philly at the request of city officials.
"This declaration allows the commonwealth to take preemptive steps to ensure the safety of our fellow Pennsylvanians," Wolf said. "The activation of the National Guard supports the current efforts in Philadelphia to protect our beloved neighbors and city."
A jury will decide whether Chauvin's actions caused the death of George Floyd, and a verdict could come as early as next week. Philadelphia officials are preparing for potential unrest.
Philadelphia police say they expect planned events to be peaceful, but businesses are now being urged to protect their exteriors.
Neighbors are shocked to see boards back up here at East Coast Wings and Grill in Philadelphia's Port Richmond neighborhood. This time, it's in anticipation of possible civil unrest from the upcoming verdict in the Chauvin trial.
"Just looking at those boards, yes, it gets you scared," a neighbor said. "It got me scared."
The restaurant and hundreds of other businesses were looted in Port Richmond back in October, after Walter Wallace Jr. of West Philadelphia was killed by police. Video showed Wallace was holding a knife and walking toward two officers before they fatally shot him. Riots also erupted last May and June in Philly over George Floyd's death.
"Let's not go back to destruction because it's too hard to build," Mayor Jim Kenney said.
Philadelphia leaders announced at a news conference on Friday outside the Municipal Services Building a response plan is now in the works to clamp down on possible unrest.
"Let me be very clear, unlawful behavior will not be tolerated," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Friday. "The safety of all demonstrators along with the safety of our residents, business owners, and visitors is a top priority for the PPD. It's important to say that at this time, there are no known specific threats to our city. Over the next few days, there are several demonstrations that are scheduled to take place, but we do not have any reason to believe that these will be anything other than peaceful demonstrations. However, regardless of what may develop, I am confident that our department is prepared for whatever may come our way."
The city's response plan includes potential street closures.
Philadelphia police have also made scheduling changes to make sure there are more boots on the ground. They'll also have assistance from the Pennsylvania National Guard and state police.
"While most folks in our city will notice an increased presence, we will do everything possible to avoid causing disruptions to the daily lives of our residents and visitors," Outlaw said.
Meanwhile, people who live and work in the city can attend a new virtual program officials are rolling out on Monday called Community Healing Circles.
"These are intended to help residents share their feelings and find community support from their neighbors," Philadelphia Managing Director Tumar Alexander said. "We will be hosting two events each week over the next three weeks. The first of which will be held this Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m."
n addition to the safety plan, Mayor Jim Kenney unveiled an open letter to citizens ahead of the verdict.
Here is the full copy of Kenney's letter:
In the coming days, a verdict will be rendered in the criminal case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with the murder of George Floyd. The decision will be reached almost one year after Mr. Floyd was killed on the ground under the knee of an officer sworn to protect and serve.
This is one of far too many cases of fatal police violence still happening across our country. Daunte Wright was shot and killed in Brooklyn Center last Sunday, and yesterday video was released in the police shooting death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo while his empty hands were raised.
Mr. Floyd's killing was a tipping point for Black and Brown people and entire communities who have felt a life sentence of pain, fear, anger, and distrust for generations. It caused outrage, and in some instances, violence, by people desperate to be heard and understood.
Looking back to last spring and the demonstrations in our city, we know the police and my administration made mistakes in how we handled the protests. Tear gas should not have been used and we over-policed in some communities while others felt abandoned. As your Mayor, I vow to do better.
I'm committed to ensuring that we learn from our mistakes, demonstrate our accountability, and hold ourselves to a higher standard. Changing how we protect all of our residents is a priority of our administration. We are listening to members of the community--and in partnership with our Pathways to Reform, Transformation, and Reconciliation Steering Committee, we are reimagining our approach and efforts to keep ALL Philadelphians safe, while working to build a more equitable city for everyone. We've also made critical changes and clarifications to our policies, procedures, and training, with more to come.
- We added mental health professionals to help screen 911 calls and identify signs of behavioral health crises.
- We expanded Crisis Intervention Training for 911 dispatchers and officers.
- We are piloting four co-responder teams that pair Crisis Intervention trained officers with behavioral health professionals, with plans for additional teams.
- We made it explicitly clear that sitting or kneeling on someone's neck, face or head is absolutely prohibited.
- We implemented internal policies and procedures and consistent accountability measures to identify and remove dishonorable personnel more easily.
Waiting for the verdict is not the hardest part. It's knowing that a life has been taken too soon and how unjustly Black and Brown people in this country are treated by law enforcement. It's knowing that regardless of what the jury decides, the judgment rendered will retraumatize the victimized and remind us of the compounding effects of centuries of inequities and systemic racism that have brought us to this moment. It's knowing that outrage may be felt once again.
In the meantime, we need to remember that we must still stand together as Philadelphians. We need to remember our neighbors who own small businesses and stores along our commercial corridors. We need to look out for each other.
All of us have the right to express our beliefs. We have the right to gather, march and protest peacefully and safely. Great progress has been made when we unite in a common cause for the greatest good, and peaceful protest is the American way. A "Know Your Rights" guide is available on the ACLU's website.
If you need help, please know that mental and behavioral health supports are available. You can find them at healthymindsphilly.org or by calling 888-545-2600. We will also be hosting six virtual community healing circles over the next three weeks to provide safe spaces for neighbors to come together in solidarity, the first of which you can register for online.
And on the day of the verdict--whenever it may be--we will be calling for citywide prayer, so we can honor the memory of George Floyd and other Black Americans whose lives were tragically cut short because of brutality, racism, systemic failures, and deep societal inequities.
I have said many times: I cannot pretend to understand what it is like to be a Black person in this country. No white person can. But I do understand that the long history of Black people facing inequality and injustice, of being denied opportunities, and of being harassed, thrown in jail, and murdered because of a broken taillight or mistaken glance--all of that must end swiftly.
This is a call for active peace. So when the verdict comes, no matter the outcome, let us resolve to demonstrate peacefully, to voice the pain and anguish loud and clear but without destruction, and let us stay united working to ensure that Black lives matter today--and every day.
James F. Kenney
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