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Another police shooting leads to unrest, but how does it differ from what we’ve already seen in 2020

Philadelphia has experienced two days of protests and even violent unrest in response to the shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. On Monday Officers responded to reports of an armed man and arrived at Wallace’s home (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54710244). Wallace was armed with a knife and advanced towards the two officers. When he failed to comply they opened fire, each shooting seven times, killing Wallace. Wallace’s family has said that they had called for an ambulance, not for the police, and questioned why the police used guns, not tasers. They also explained that he was experiencing a mental health crisis.


Since then protesters have been lining the streets of the city. Initial protests started on Monday with 300 people marching. 91 were arrested and one officer was injured. Protests continued into Tuesday and began peacefully, but they escalated as the evening wore on. Reports of looting and violence led to an increase in police presence. The National Guard was eventually brought in to help quell any rioting.


President Trump responded to the unrest, saying, "Last night [Monday] Philadelphia was torn up by Biden-supporting radicals. Thirty police officers, Philadelphia police officers, they were injured, some badly. Biden stands with the rioters, and I stand with the heroes of law enforcement." The Biden/Harris campaign released a statement, saying, "We cannot accept that in this country a mental health crisis ends in death. It makes the shock and grief and violence of yesterday's shooting that much more painful, especially for a community that has already endured so much trauma.”


While this incident was filmed in broad daylight like the killing of George Floyd, many are pointing to the fact that Wallace was armed to differentiate the cases. Many on the Right are saying that police action was justified, especially since they first requested that he stand down and only acted when threatened. They have also pointed to his criminal record, citing that he already had a reputation for violence. Meanwhile, many on the Left are saying that the police were in the wrong, especially considering Wallace’s mental health history. That being said, the Biden/Harris campaign condemned the subsequent rioting.


Is this another example of police brutality in a situation where peaceful de-escalation would have been a more viable option, or were the officers’ actions the only option available considering the circumstances? Would additional police training provide opportunities to better handle situations like this, or could other agencies such as social workers take on these cases?


Image Credit: Reuters

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