PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Hundreds of people gathered in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to protest the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, but the peaceful demonstrations later turned violent with cars set ablaze and other property damage, and Philadelphia police announced an 8 p.m. curfew in the city.
A crowd estimated by police as numbering 500 people gathered at Philadelphia’s City Hall, kneeling for more than eight minutes in honor of Floyd, a black man who died after a white officer pressed a knee into his neck, then marched through Center City to the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Saturday.
Back in the City Hall area, protesters sprayed graffiti on a statue of former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, tried to topple it and set a fire at its base. Rizzo, mayor from 1972 to 1980, was praised by supporters as tough on crime but accused by critics of discriminating against minorities. His 10-foot-tall (3-meter-tall) bronze statue outside the Municipal Services Building, across from City Hall, has been defaced before and is to be moved next year.
During the protests, a state police vehicle could be seen on fire nearby; it wasn’t immediately clear how the blaze started and police didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment. At least one other vehicle fire could be seen later in the area, and a Starbucks coffee outlet in the area was set afire.
“The peaceful protests earlier were touching showings of our collective grief,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “The anger being displayed now cannot continue. Please have respect and dignity for each other and return home.”
Police later announced that the mayor had implemented a mandatory city-wide curfew of 8 p.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Sunday. “Only persons with essential duties will be permitted outdoors,” police said in a Twitter post as the mayor and police commissioner were to speak later.
Crowds also gathered Saturday afternoon for a march in downtown Pittsburgh to protest Floyd’s death. Police reported that the crowd near the PPG Arena was mostly peaceful but a group “overtook and destroyed” a marked police vehicle. Two journalists in the area were reported injured.
Protesters later smashed a glass business front and were dispersed with gas, police said. Pittsburgh Public Safety later reported ore business fronts broken out in the downtown area “and protests are entering businesses.”
In Harrisburg, PennLive.com reports that several hundred people gathered Saturday on the steps of the state Capitol, many standing silently with raised fists. Some chanted “I can’t breathe” and carried signs such as “White Silence is Violence,” “Fight for Your Country” and “No Peace No Justice.”