America needs to correct the deep-seated racism that’s caused widespread unrest and left Philadelphia’s neighborhoods in a state of devastation, Gov. Tom Wolf said during a visit to the city on Monday.
“I spent today here in Philadelphia and (saw) just so many sad scenes — food stores that had been gutted, pharmacies that’d been gutted, places that cash checks, banks had been gutted. These are at the heart of the day to day lives for Philadelphians and it really makes it hard for them,” Wolf said.
“We need to recognize that we have a lot of work to do to address the ills that the protests are about. The issues that underlay this, is the fact that this society is not an equal society. The protests, for that reason, are absolutely called for. What is not called for, is the violence that follows them.”
The governor said he was still figuring out security measures and rebuilding efforts, but confirmed that approximately 1,000 National Guard members would be in the city by the end of the night.
“We need to contribute and invest in the rebuilding of Philadelphia. When that starts and how we do that remains to be seen,” he said. “I’ve never been here before. This is brand new for me... We all need to calm ourselves down. We all have to work together.”
As to whether he would send additional state troopers or National Guard officers, Wolf said he would decide “very soon.”
Wolf’s comments came after he toured Germantown, West Philadelphia and areas along Spring Garden Street — communities and businesses that had been overwhelmed by violence, vandalism and looting over the weekend.
Referencing the ParkWest Town Center in West Philadelphia, he observed: “It was very sad, it had been devastated. A place that was the center of the community, a place built by the community. Seventy-five percent of the people who worked in that mall were African-American — many from that community.”
Wolf also addressed a recent governors’ conference call with Trump, during which Trump referred to the state leaders as “weak.”
“I wasn’t on that call,” Wolf said. “I have no idea what he was talking about. I’m going to continue to do what I’ve done, which is serve the people of Pennsylvania.”
Congressman Dwight Evans (D-3), who accompanied Wolf on his tour, said the protests were necessary but that the destruction of businesses needed to stop. Noting that pharmacies were being looted, he pointed out that this could be especially damaging for African Americans who suffer from pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
“I’m mad, too. I’m mad for the killing that the police officers did. [But] do not be disruptive of people’s livelihood,” Evans said. “We understand systematic racism, we also understand people need their [medicine]. They also need access to healthcare.”
State Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald (D-203) agreed.
“I think there’s a lot of anger but I also think that they’re disrupting people who are unemployed because of the virus,” she said. “Now places where people could go to work, they’re gone. I don’t doubt there’s anger, but you don’t destroy your community.”