Philadelphia prepares for potential unrest ahead of impending verdict in Derek Chauvin trial

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw will join local business owners Friday to announce preparations being made for the impending verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minnesota cop accused of killing George Floyd

Outlaw, who led the Philadelphia Police Department's response during the violent unrest last summer, ensured that peaceful demonstrators will have their first amendment rights protected by law enforcement.

She pointed to a "small percentage" of opportunists that exploit protests for "personal gain" as a reason for her department to stay vigilant in the days leading up to the jury's decision. Outlaw said unlawful behavior "will not be tolerated" and outlined steps local police are taking to ensure the safety of Philadelphia communities. 

The Philadelphia Police Department has canceled scheduled off-days for officers to help widen security around the city and protect local infrastructure, Outlaw said. Residents may notice an increased number of bike and horseback cops.

Governor Tom Wolf signed a proclamation of disaster emergency Friday, activating more than 1,000 Pennsylvania National Guard state active-duty members to support local officials in Philadelphia. The action was taken at the request of the City of Philadelphia. 

"This declaration allows the commonwealth to take preemptive steps to ensure the safety of our fellow Pennsylvanians," said Gov. Wolf. "The activation of the National Guard supports the current efforts in Philadelphia to protect our beloved neighbors and city."

While road closures are not currently planned, Outlaw said it may be possible in the future. There are "several" planned protests in the city over the coming days, but police have no reason to believe they will be violent. Outlaw said there are no credible threats against Philadelphia at this time.

"As always, public safety remains the number one priority of the Philadelphia Police Department," Outlaw said. "Regardless of what may develop, I am confident our department is prepared for whatever may come our way."

Meanwhile, Mayor Jim Kenney said city leaders have spent the last several months analyzing and working to improve police tactics used for crowd control and protests after the events of last summer sparked controversy about the use of tear gas and other agents.

"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," Kenney said in an open letter. "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,"

Philadelphia will host six "virtual community healing circles over the next three weeks" designed to provide a safe space for healing in the wake of the Chauvin trial decision, according to Kenney. 

"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," Kenney said.

Closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin trial are slated to happen on Monday, according to Trial Judge Peter Cahill. 

Cahill told the jury closing arguments and jury instructions will begin at 9 a.m. on Monday, giving them a long weekend to prepare for sequestration. After that, the jury will be sequestered immediately and begin deliberating. They will remain sequestered until they reach a verdict. 

Philadelphia is trying to act proactively to limit potential unrest in the city from spiraling out of control like it did last summer when protests that began peaceful ignited riots, looting and violence. The city saw similar unrest after the officer-involved shooting death of Walter Wallace Jr last fall.

"I cannot believe people can destroy their neighborhood. I cannot believe that but the hope is it's not going to happen again," said store manager Ruhul Amin who recalls the same thing happening in West Philly along the 52nd Street business corridor. 

"They took everything. They break every part of the store," he said. 

Mohamed Alsaidi says he heavily guarded his business from looters last June. 

"I called a friend of mine and we just stayed in the store with a gun just protecting it," he said. He’s taking extra precautions in anticipation of Monday. 

"Yes, I am. I actually already got the gate people and I put a deposit in and on Monday morning we see what happens," said Alsaidi. 



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