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October 30, 2020

Center City streets reopen after being closed overnight to deter vandalism

Philly officials opted against implementing a curfew Thursday night, but shut down a section of downtown

Road Closures Center City
Center City street closures Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

A section of Center City stretching from Arch to Walnut streets and Eighth to 20th streets reopened early Friday morning. Above, a file photo of JFK Boulevard, one of the affected streets.

Philadelphia has reopened a portion of Center City that was abruptly closed to motorists Thursday night. 

The section stretching from Arch to Walnut streets, and Eighth to 20th streets, was reopened around 3:30 a.m. Friday, the city's Office of Emergency Management announced. The streets were closed shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday. 

The closures restricted vehicular traffic, but did not impact SEPTA. Residents and essential workers were allowed to enter the restricted area, which was marked off by traffic cones, by showing identification to authorities. 

Some residents said they were surprised by the closures and didn't know they were going into effect.

The closures came after several days of civil unrest sparked by the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. Officials had imposed a citywide curfew Wednesday night, but had not put one in place on Thursday. 

There were not any reports of large-scale unrest Thursday night, when the weather was cold and rainy – the effects of Hurricane Zeta. 

Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man, was killed by a pair of officers on the 6100 block of Locust Street on Monday afternoon. 

City officials said they would release the police body camera footage and 911 recordings related to the shooting by the end of next week. 

The family of Wallace has viewed the footage. Their attorney, Shaka Johnson, said the footage shows one of the officers instructing the other to "shoot him." It also shows them telling Wallace to drop the knife he was holding and includes people yelling that Wallace was in mental distress. 

Police radio calls indicate the officers were responding to a report of a man "assaulting an elderly female and male," according to the Inquirer. The dispatch calls do not mention Wallace's mental health history or note that police had twice responded to disturbance calls at the same address earlier in the day. 

Johnson said the family will not seek murder charges against the officers involved, placing much of the blame on the city for failing to equip them with Tasers. Still, he said footage showed Wallace in an "obvious mental health crisis." 

The shooting sparked immediate demonstrations. 

On Monday and Tuesday, the unrest ranged from peaceful protests to the looting of stores in several neighborhoods. Several ATM explosions have occurred and a van filled with explosives was discovered near Logan Square on Wednesday night.

Some Center City stores temporarily closed due to the unrest. Walmart announced it would remove guns and ammunition from the shelves of its Philadelphia stores, a measure that the retailer also took during the protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.

"We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers," Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg said in a statement.

The National Guard arrived in Philadelphia Friday morning, after being ordered to deploy Tuesday by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. Wolf also signed a disaster emergency proclamation Wednesday so that "commonwealth resources can be provided quickly to protect lives and property." 

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