The White House has sought to reinject issues of law and order into the US presidential campaign after a second night of protests and looting in parts of Philadelphia, which were sparked by the police killing of a black man.
Authorities asked for residents in several districts to remain indoors as they attempted to quell unrest sparked by the shooting of Walter Wallace Jr, a black man whose family said was suffering a mental health crisis. Police said Wallace was carrying a knife.
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, which has sought to portray the president as the defender of law and order amid a national reckoning over police violence, on Tuesday night blamed Democrats for the “rioting” in the city, which is the largest in the key electoral swing state of Pennsylvania.
“The riots in Philadelphia are the most recent consequence of the liberal Democrats’ war against the police,” the White House said in a statement, adding that Mr Trump “stands proudly with law enforcement, and stands ready, upon request, to deploy any and all federal resources to end these riots”.
Pennsylvania was already in the midst of deploying hundreds of troops from the state National Guard to support the police.
Joe Biden, Mr Trump’s Democratic rival, said he would work to address the spate of police shootings and other allegations of misconduct, but condemned property damage that occurred overnight.
“There is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence, none whatsoever,” Mr Biden said after voting in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware on Wednesday. “To be able to protest is totally legitimate, totally reasonable, but I think the looting, as the victim’s father said . . . ‘You’re not helping, you’re hurting’.”
Video from local news showed clusters of demonstrators facing off against police in areas of west and north Philadelphia, and scenes of looted stores, including a Foot Locker and Walmart.
A mobile phone video taken by a bystander on Monday evening showed two police officers firing multiple shots at Wallace, 27, in the middle of the street as onlookers gasped and then shrieked. He later died in a hospital.
Several residents questioned why Wallace was shot 14 times and why police did not have Tasers or other non-lethal means to detain him. His family told the Associated Press that he suffered mental health issues, and that they had called an ambulance — not police — for assistance.
Jim Kenney, the Philadelphia mayor, called the shooting “a heart-wrenching moment” and said the video presented “difficult questions which must be answered”. Mr Kenney, a Democrat, linked the unrest to systemic racism.
Thirty police officers were injured in the ensuing violence on Monday evening, according to the Philadelphia Police Department, including one who was hit by a car and suffered a broken leg.
The shooting has come at a time when both presidential candidates are barnstorming Pennsylvania in the last days of the campaign in an attempt to win a vital swing state. Mr Trump captured Pennsylvania by a mere 44,000 votes in 2016, clearing his path to the White House.
Philadelphia, a Democratic bastion with a large African-American population, has been the subject of withering rhetorical attacks throughout the campaign by Mr Trump, who has repeatedly decried it as a hotbed of voter fraud.
“Bad things happen in Philadelphia,” Mr Trump said during the presidential debate with his Democratic challenger Joe Biden — a slogan that the city’s residents have ironically claimed as their own.
In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, said they were “heartbroken” by Wallace’s death. “We cannot accept that in this country a mental health crisis ends in death,” they said.
At the same time, they said, “no amount of anger at the very real injustices in our society excuses violence” and the looting of small businesses already struggling from the coronavirus pandemic.
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