September 28, 2023
A social media influencer known as 'Meatball' was among over 50 people arrested amid widespread looting across Philadelphia on Tuesday night. The influencer — whose real name is Dayjia Blackwell — faces six felony charges and two misdemeanors after she documented the chaos on her Instagram Stories and TikTok account and cheered on looters as they ransacked stores in Center City.
In several videos posted to her nearly 190,000-follower Instagram account, Blackwell, 21, can be heard laughing and encouraging the looters as they smashed windows, forced their way into stores and took off with stolen merchandise. At one point, she can be heard shouting "free iPhones!" as looters stole devices from the Apple Store on Walnut Street in Center City.
Her videos also show police attempting to apprehend and detain some of the looters. In one clip, the influencer is heard defiantly daring police to arrest her, saying, “Tell the police they’re either gonna lock me up tonight, or it’s gonna get lit, it’s gonna be a movie.”
Blackwell's charges include burglary, criminal trespassing, criminal mischief, conspiracy, riot with the intent to commit a felony and criminal use of a communication facility, according to police. Her bail was set at $25,000, which she posted early Thursday.
The looting started in Center City around 8 p.m. on Tuesday when a group of at least 100 juveniles started breaking into several stores and stealing merchandise. They then spread to West Philly and Northeast Philly in a caravan of cars, looting more businesses. Looting in parts of Northeast Philly continued early Thursday morning, and police made 18 more arrests.
Just before the downtown looting started Tuesday night, family members and supporters of Eddie Irizarry, who fas fatally shot by police on Aug. 14, marched near City Hall in protest of a judge's decision to drop all charges against former Philadelphia police officer Mark Dial, who shot and killed Irizarry.
In one of her videos, Blackwell appears to reference the Irizarry situation when she shouts, “This is what happens when we don’t get justice in this city!” Police said on Tuesday that the looting incidents were not directly tied to the peaceful protests in support of justice for Irizarry.
Looters damaged and ransacked numerous stores and other businesses, including 18 different liquor stores. Some liquor stores remained closed on Thursday as the cleanup from Tuesday's looting continued.
NOTE: Portions of this article were edited after it was originally published.