Police and National Guard assigned to protests

COUNCILMEMBERS GYM AND JONES, JR. CALL FOR HEARING ON CITY’S PROTEST RESPONSE

In Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Helen Gym, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, Kenyatta Johnson, News by PHL Council

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The hearing will evaluate inequities in law enforcement response, and especially in use of force, amid demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality

PHILADELPHIA—Today, Councilmembers Helen Gym (At-Large) and Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District) introduced a resolution calling for hearings to review the City’s response to demonstrations in support of ending systemic racism in policing and of the Black Lives Matter movement. The hearings will also aim to provide residents with a forum to share their experiences and make recommendations for safer and non-discriminatory policing.

The resolution comes in the wake of ongoing concerns regarding the Unified Command’s response to continuing demonstrations against racial injustice, including the improper arrest of a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter this week, as well as the release of State Police dashcam footage that conflicts with public officials’ accounts regarding the authorization of the tear gas used to dispel protestors on I-676 on June 1st as documented today in a video investigation by The New York Times.

“It is essential that the process of review be a public one. This includes hearing from residents who were not participating in demonstrations yet whose neighborhoods were tear gassed without warning; from demonstrators subjected to rubber bullets and chemical agents while exercising their constitutional rights; and from communities who witnessed largely white armed vigilante mobs treated differently by police than people protesting racial injustice,” said Councilmember Gym.

Councilmember Gym continued, “These hearings will allow us to assess the Unified Command’s response, and to learn how policies and procedures must be changed to ensure that we uphold public safety, preserve humanity and the public health, and ensure that our responses are humane and equitable across neighborhoods. It’s clear there was a breakdown at multiple levels of decision-making and it’s essential that in the course of the multiple investigations that are going on that at least one of them is fully public.”

The hearing will aim to fully discern the decision-making processes behind the use of “less-lethal” force by law enforcement, and will solicit feedback from residents who have been impacted by the City’s response. It will further supplement the final product of an independent review of the City’s protest protocols and responses that Mayor Kenney and Commissioner Outlaw have announced that they will commission. Councilmember Gym will consequently introduce a bill upon Council’s return to regulate the use of non-lethal force, such as tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets, among others.

“There was no handbook that could have prepared Philadelphia for what we experienced, but we should learn from our experiences,” said Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District). “This hearing will provide that forum.”

Lawsuits related to the City’s protest response are expected to result in increased costs to a budget already strained by the COVID-19 pandemic, adding to Philadelphia’s dramatic recent increase in liability related to police abuse. Last year, Councilmember Gym passed reform legislation to increase transparency related to the payment of public funds for abuse and misconduct lawsuits, and to spur systemic reform of underlying structural issues.

The resolution was cosponsored by Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Cherelle L. Parker (9th District), Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Derek Green (At Large), Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large) and Isaiah Thomas (At Large).

Read the resolution:

FINAL RESOLUTION-Hearing_City response_protests 6.25.2020

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Photo: Rob Bulmahn, used under Creative Commons license.

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