Pennsylvanians are fearing an outbreak of violence and looting in the state as the election is set to extend beyond November 3 and court battles loom.
The White House said it had been monitoring widespread riots in the city late last month and is prepared to deploy federal troops, but on Sunday District Attorney Larry Krasner told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi, “Its a non-starter for federal troops, anonymous or not.”
The National Guard arrived in the city last Monday to guard buildings like City Hall, in order to give Philadelphia police the ability to carry out their normal law enforcement duties.
Business owners in the downtown Pittsburgh-area told local NBC affiliate WPXI they were hoping for the best and preparing for the worst as they boarded up.
Gun sales are exploding at John Brown’s Armory in Beaver County. An employee told WPXI pistols, handguns and ammunition are “flying off” their shelves.
In the midst of widespread rioting and looting last month, Philadelphia Police Deputy Commissioner Melvin Singleton reportedly issued a stand-down order to officers.
The order stated that officers would respond to “priority calls only” and excluded burglary and theft complaints. “This means no calls for disturbance, a missing person, stolen vehicle, burglary, or theft will be answered,” the order stated.
It was issued during the second night of rioting after the October 26 police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., 27, a black man who was killed after he charged at the officers waving a knife and refused to drop it.
City officials said at least 200 businesses, including furniture and appliance stores, many of them already struggling in the midst of the pandemic, were the targets of massive looting.
While police were left flat-footed, looters seemed to have been preparing for weeks for the first sign of a civil disturbance.
They broke in through the roof of a Walmart and damaged the water pipes, which left the store completely flooded. They emptied the store of most of its merchandise through back and side doors.
Philadelphia bomb squad investigators are now probing a series of explosions at ATMs across the city. Police reported that 18 ATM machines were “blown apart” with explosives by looters attempting to steal cash.
Police also found explosives and other suspicious cargo inside a van at Logan Circle. They recovered propane tanks, torches and possible dynamite sticks from the van.
Two ATMs at a TD Bank were destroyed at an estimated cost of about $70,000 each. Many banks which were targeted may not replace the ATMs or choose to close the branches because of the vandalism and looting, leaving Philadelphians without localized service.
Crime has been skyrocketing under the leadership of Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw who came to Philadelphia less than a year ago from Portland, Oregon, another bastion of lawlessness.
According to the police department’s latest Major Crimes Report, homicides are up more than 34% from this time last year. Shooting incidents have spiked nearly 59 percent.
There were 65 homicides committed in the month of October. This year there have been 404 homicides and 1,615 people shot. In the past two months there have been 466 shooting, which Outlaw called “an epidemic of gun violence.
The deputy police commissioner was heavily criticized in June for asking Philadelphia police and Pennsylvania National Guard to ‘take a knee’ outside Philadelphia Police headquarters during a march calling for justice over the death of George Floyd. He was another black man killed in the custody of Minneapolis police officers on May 25.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Bill McSwain has been at loggerheads with the DA since he took office in April 2018. McSwain accused Krasner of lecturing him about justice reform and how traditional prosecutors got it all wrong.
“He said, ‘I think what went on here the last 20 years is terrible, and I’m here to burn it all down,’” McSwain said. “And the reason he wants to do that is he thinks the entire system … meaning the police, the whole criminal justice system, is racist and corrupt.”
Krasner, who’s campaign was funded by liberal billionaire George Soros, promised to divert nonviolent offenders from prison and eliminate cash bail for some charges when he launched his campaign in downtown Philadelphia in early February.
More than a dozen political activists supported him, including Black Lives Matter leaders, Occupy Philly alumni, and Arch Street United Methodist Church pastors, among others, groups Krasner has defended in court.
“My biggest accomplishment has been to represent individuals as they faced the Goliath that government can be in order to make sure that they got fair trials and that their constitutional rights were preserved,” he said.