August 25, 2017
Pennsylvania State Rep. Martina White criticized a group of protesters who gathered in front of a Philadelphia police officer's home Thursday and demanded he be punished for the fatal shooting of a North Philadelphia resident in June.
The Republican from Northeast Philadelphia further singled out Police Commissioner Richard Ross and Mayor Jim Kenney, questioning whether city police officers have been ordered to stand down when Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrate in front of them.
White's statement on Friday followed a protest Thursday evening outside the Bustleton home of Officer Ryan Pownall, who fatally shot 30-year-old David Jones in the back after an initial struggle over a gun in Jones' waistband, according to a police report.
A group of 10 protesters, led by Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif, posted "wanted" posters for Pownall on telephone poles near his home on Bridle Road on Thursday evening, according to a Metro report.
Police soon arrived and formed a line between the group and the officer's home as protesters chanted and gave their demands.
White accused the protesters of aiming "vitriol" at a police officer's family in a quiet city neighborhood.
"While I fully support lawful protests as provided by the First Amendment, yesterday’s events were not that," she said. "Instead, Black Lives Matter activists invaded a residential neighborhood without a permit, utilized bullhorns to spew profanity, and threatened an endless occupation of that neighborhood until their demands are met.
“This same unlawful protest also required a contingent of police officers who would otherwise be working to preserve safety across our city to instead protect the residents of this neighborhood, including the officer and his family."
The 28-year-old representative didn't stop there.
"It is shocking to me that Police Commissioner Richard Ross and Mayor Jim Kenney allowed this illegal occupation to go on for hours without taking any action to enforce the law," said White, who posted the statement to her website and social media accounts.
A spokeswoman for Kenney, Lauren Hitt, said police simply followed protocol on Thursday.
"Commissioner Ross and Mayor Kenney would never ask officers to 'stand down,'" she said. "The police treated demonstrators [Thursday night] as they would have any others and as our officers have in dozens of demonstrations in dozens of different neighborhoods.”
"There are many Philadelphians and officers who are productively working to build police-community trust, including pushing for transparency and reform which Commissioner Ross and I both agree must continue," Kenney also said in a statement. "What happened last night did nothing to move those efforts forward."
At times on Thursday, protesters clashed with residents who came out of their homes in response to the gathering. Some of them aimed racial and anti-LGBTQ slurs at the protesters, Khalif told PhillyVoice on Friday.
"We didn't find it appropriate for residents to call us 'n****rs' and refer to the [transgender] people there as f****ts. We didn't approve of that type of language, too," Khalif said when asked about White's statement. "Clearly her bills are written to protect police officers and not to (support) transparency or accountability."
In February, White introduced House Bill 27, which would keep law enforcement agencies from releasing the identifies of police officers involved in shootings within 30 days of an incident or until law enforcement complete an investigation. The Pennsylvania House passed the legislation in March, but it still awaits action in the Senate.
Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a similar bill last year.
In a follow-up Facebook post on Friday, White said those officers' names should be held until "all the facts can come to light."
A graphic placed at the top of the homepage of White's website asks visitors to "Tell Gov. Wolf to Sign House Bill 27," and provides a link to a petition urging the governor to do so. The petition has more than 2,000 signatures, White said.