Philadelphia prepares for Chauvin verdict with troops, mental health resources

Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Philly prepares for protests
Businesses across Philadelphia are readying themselves as a Minneapolis jury decides if former police officer Derek Chauvin is guilty or not guilty.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- While Minneapolis is more than 1,100 miles away, the City of Philadelphia is preparing for what will happen in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who pressed his knee into George Floyd's neck. The jury was sent off to begin deliberating after nearly a full day of closing arguments Monday.

Philadelphia's local leaders said they are expecting peaceful protests but will be bracing for potential looting and rioting following a verdict in the case.

Governor Tom Wolf declared a disaster emergency and deployed 1,000 Pennsylvania National Guard members this weekend at the request of Mayor Jim Kenney.

SEE ALSO: Philadelphia businesses preparing for social unrest ahead of Chauvin verdict

Even though the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with the death of George Floyd last year, is still underway, businesses in Philadelphia are preparing for the potential aftermath of the verdict.

Last summer the city saw peaceful protests, but also experienced looting and rioting in response to the video of Floyd's death in police custody. The city saw unrest again when Walter Wallace Jr. was fatally shot by police in West Philadelphia.

"It's a little scary. I hope what happened last year doesn't happen again," said Kailin Vollmeth of South Philadelphia.

In South Philadelphia, at the Quartermaster Plaza, crews were sealing up the Verizon and the Children's Place clothing store Monday.

In other areas of the city like on Aramingo Avenue, the work is already done. Dozens of businesses there are already boarded up and are hoping customers will still walk in.

Mark Cofone of Manayunk was heading to a shop there to get his watch fixed Monday night and said this isn't right.

"The people down there protesting they didn't want this. They wanted change in whatever they believe in. Not for people to come in and ransack the stores," said Cofone.

"I just think there's a lot of frustration out there," said resident Mateo Castano of South Philadelphia.

"We want to see Black and Brown people safe in our communities and across the country. This verdict is pivotal," said Grant from Germantown, who did not provide his last name.

Grant added," I do believe if justice prevails, there will be peace, but if it doesn't, I fear there will be some uprising."

"If you look at the big picture, it's going to send a statement out to the country and to the world that you can still believe in justice again. That's just my opinion," remarked James Scober of Overbrook. "I mean you want to believe in justice, but when you see stuff like this occurring, it's hard. It's hard to believe in it."

At the ParkWest Town Center in the city's Parkside section, a ShopRite was looted for 15 straight hours this summer. Shoppers said Monday they are preparing for the worst.

"This is very important and something has got to be done. Justice has to be served. I believe if it's not a guilty verdict that comes out of this, there's going to be a problem," said Antoine Johnson of Upper Darby.

The mobilization of troops on standby is drawing some mixed reaction.

State Representative Chris Rabb of Northwest Philadelphia said an organized plan for a communal peaceful protest would be better suited.

"People will be coming out into the streets if there is a miscarriage of justice. And the response to that is not militarization. The response to that is not more police because that's part of the problem," said Rep. Rabb. "I'm essentially talking about rallies where there is food and music, and there's the ability to have people share what they are feeling."

SEE ALSO: Philadelphia business owners cleaning up after nights of looting in Port Richmond

Businesses across Philadelphia are cleaning up after looters caused damage.

As Philadelphia police and guard members remain on standby, so do members of the Black clergy.

"We're on alert to be prepared for when the verdict comes down. We want every pastor and preacher associated with Black Clergy to be available to be dispatched in neighborhoods," said Rev. Robert Collier, president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia.

Reverend Collier said he understands the need for military presence if necessary.

"We don't want martial law, we don't need a military take over, but we have to protect the property and lives of all of our citizens," said Rev. Collier.

While Minneapolis is more than 1,100 miles away, the City of Philadelphia is preparing for what will happen in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who pressed his knee into George Floyd's neck.

"By the time we got the forces that we needed there, it was already too late. It is better to be prepared and not need it," added Collier speaking about the protests last summer.

Collier and other members of the Philadelphia Black Clergy will be hosting a day of prayer on Friday with worship in the streets starting at 11 a.m.

Some employees of shops along the 52nd Street corridor in West Philadelphia see the military stand by as a protective force. It's much needed after their shops were looted twice.

"Before they even started deliberating, we boarded this store up. They boarded this store up the last two times. I hope it doesn't happen again," said Steve Hall who works at Q and S Beauty Supply.

Jafar Bhuiyan said troops and police didn't prevent his shop from being destroyed and instead stood by.

"They looted everything. They looked around and they didn't do nothing," said Bhuiyan.

Aside from the National Guard presence, the Emergency Operations Center is fully staffed to receive calls. Mental health professionals are there to determine how to best respond in some cases.