West Philadelphia resident Kathy White didn’t recognize the ParkWest Town Center when she arrived there Monday morning to deposit a check at the Wells Fargo branch.
Protesters had smashed the windows of Lowe’s, ShopRite, Snipes sneaker store, GameStop, T-Mobile and other stores in the shopping center on 52nd Street in West Philadelphia on Sunday night, and taken whatever they could carry. A trail of splattered paint, broken glass and trash remained.
“I feel like I’m in a third-world county,” said White, a 57-year-old registered nurse as she surveyed the damage.
Sunday was the second night of protests in Philadelphia over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the vandalism and looting had spread from Center City to other neighborhoods and the nearby suburbs.
Mayor Jim Kenney, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, and other city and state officials toured the destruction at ParkWest Monday morning.
Kenney said police were “overwhelmed in many different areas” Sunday night and did not have enough resources to quell multiple protests occurring simultaneously throughout the city. Philadelphia police requested assistance from Bucks and Montgomery counties, state police and the National Guard.
National Guard troops arrived early Monday.
While surrounded by dozens of residents in the plaza, Kenney pledged it would rebuild and restock.
“We’ll get back — I promise,” he said.
The police department received more than 18,000 calls for service Sunday and officers “need help,” Outlaw said. The police about 3,000 calls for service on a normal day.
Outlaw said there needs to be “accountability.”
“We all need to be held accountable,” said the police commissioner. “Police and our role and the service that we provide. Making sure that we look out as residents for our neighborhoods and looking out for each other.
“And being willing to come together and coalition build as one voice of unity and say what we will and will not tolerate in our communities.”
Police arrested 222 people as of Monday morning, 98 of whom were being charged with burglary and looting.
Kenney said he expected to meet with Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday following two days of civil unrest.
The mayor imposed a citywide curfew for a third night, between 6 p.m. Monday and 6 a.m. Tuesday.
At ParkWest, scores of community members arrived as early as 8 a.m. with shovels, brooms and garbage cans to help clean up the shopping center.
At-large Councilwoman Katherine Gilmore Richardson, who lives in the Wynnefield neighborhood of the city, was concerned ShopRite and other businesses might leave ParkWest, but added, “I hope we are able to help and sustain [them] in this local community.”
Gilmore Richardson said she would push the Kenney administration to ensure adequate police coverage for the plaza on Monday.
Gilmore Richardson said she knew “there was no police coverage here last night because I was here as the looting happened. The police were overwhelmed. … They were out-resourced.”
Councilman Curtis Jones, who represents the 3rd District where ParkWest is located, condemned the looters.
“What sense does it make to burn your own house?” he asked. “I hope we get this out of our system. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
Among those to arrive early that morning at ParkWest shopping plaza were more than 20 members of the Laborers Local 332.
Sam Staten Jr., business manager for the union, said members — identifiable by their bright orange T-shirts — felt compelled to volunteer because that was their neighborhood and community.
“It’s the places we shop, we live,” he said.
Alexander Jones, a 28-year-old West Philadelphia resident, arrived at the ShopRite around Noon to help clean the store after working earlier to restore businesses on Lancaster Avenue.
Jones said the rioters and looters shattered the sense of safety in the community.
“This is where we’re supposed to be safe and it’s not that no more,” he said as he stood inside the ransacked grocery store. “They turned our safe haven into a war zone.”