Thousands protest Floyd's death in Pennsylvania cities

By RON TODT, Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Thousands of people gathered in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to protest the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, but the peaceful demonstrations later turned violent with police cars set ablaze and other property damage, and Philadelphia police announced an 8 p.m. curfew in the city. A crowd gathered at Philadelphia's City Hall, kneeling for more than eight minutes in honor of Floyd, a black man who died after a white officer pressed a knee into his neck. The protesters then marched through Center City to the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Saturday. During an evening news conference, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said about 3,000 people gathered in the city. Outlaw said at least 13 police officers were injured at several locations throughout downtown Philadelphia. There were also injuries to civilians, she said, but specific numbers have not yet been released. At least four police vehicles were set on fire.

Violent protesters broke windows and looted stores throughout Walnut and Chestnut streets, two major shopping areas downtown. Protesters sprayed graffiti on a statue of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, tried to topple it and set a fire at its base. Rizzo, mayor from 1972 to 1980, was praised by supporters as tough on crime but accused by critics of discriminating against minorities. His 10-foot-tall bronze statue outside the Municipal Services Building, across from City Hall, has been defaced before and is to be moved next year.

During the protests, a state police vehicle could be seen on fire nearby. Outlaw said Saturday evening that a total of nine fires were set in the city, to both police cars and structures. At least six arrested were made. At least one other vehicle fire could be seen later in the area, and a Starbucks coffee kiosk in the area was set afire. "The peaceful protests earlier were touching showings of our collective grief," Mayor Jim Kenney said. "The anger being displayed now cannot continue. Please have respect and dignity for each other and return home." Outlaw said a mandatory citywide curfew of 8 p.m. Saturday through 7 a.m. Sunday has been implemented. Only essential duties will be allowed outdoors.

Crowds also gathered Saturday afternoon for a march in downtown Pittsburgh to protest Floyd's death. Police reported that the crowd near the PPG Arena was mostly peaceful but a group "overtook and destroyed" a marked police vehicle. Two journalists in the area were reported injured. Protesters later smashed a glass business front and were dispersed with gas, police said. Pittsburgh Public Safety later reported more business fronts broken out in the downtown area "and protests are entering businesses."

In Harrisburg, reports that several hundred people gathered Saturday on the steps of the state Capitol, many standing silently with raised fists. Some chanted "I can't breathe" and carried signs such as "White Silence is Violence," "Fight for Your Country" and "No Peace No Justice."

Gov. Tom Wolf announced in a release that the Commonwealth Response Coordination Center, already activated at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) for the state's COVID-19 response, has supplemented center staff to maintain situational awareness of the protests taking place in the state. Gov. Wolf advised that his administration has been in touch with counties throughout the day, offering whatever assistance is needed to keep the communities from suffering from any additional violence.