More than 50 people were arrested after Philadelphia experienced major looting episodes and catastrophic social media-fueled mayhem on Wednesday, according to the police.
On Wednesday, investigators claimed that numerous groups of criminals, who appeared to be acting together, vandalised property in different parts of the city, forced their way into shops, and took everything they could before running away. More than a dozen state-run booze stores were apparently looted, an ATM was reportedly stolen, and the state of Pennsylvania stated it was closing its Philly offices until further notice.
The Philadelphia Police Department reports that at least 52 people, including 49 adults and three kids, have been taken into custody. They are accused of stealing, burglary, and other crimes, according to the Philadelphia district attorney’s office.
Just hours after a court dismissed a murder case against a white Philadelphia police officer who shot and killed Black citizen Eddie Irizarry, a flash mob-style looting rampage began Tuesday just after 8 p.m. at dozens of retailers, including Foot Locker, Lululemon, and an Apple store.
From Philadelphia’s downtown to its northeast and western regions, there were thefts and riots.
Patriot Pharmacy was targeted on Wednesday, and Benjamin Nochum, a chemist and the store manager said it was the third time in three years that his company had been attacked.
“When looters steal from us, what they don’t seem to understand is that they are also stealing from our neighbours,” Nochum said. “It makes you question how much longer you can hang on.”
A video that Rebecca Brannon, an independent photojournalist, uploaded on X showed an ATM being stolen from a Wells Fargo branch in Philadelphia.
At least 18 state-run liquor establishments were also targeted for theft; they were broken into and emptied. On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board made the announcement that all 48 of its retail stores in Philadelphia would be closed. It also announced that it would close its sole location in the Cheltenham suburbs.
The stores were “closed in the interest of employee safety and while we assess the damage and loss that occurred. We will reopen stores when it is safe to do so and when the damage is repaired,” liquor board spokesperson Shawn Kelly said in a statement.
No employees were hurt, but “some were understandably shaken,” Kelly added.
At a press conference on Tuesday, interim police commissioner John Stanford said that the people who were ransacking the house were “a bunch of criminal opportunists” and were unrelated to a calm demonstration that had assembled after the judge’s ruling.
Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney described the Tuesday looting as a “sickening display of opportunistic criminal activity.”
“This destructive and illegal behaviour cannot and will not be tolerated in our city,” he said.
His administration is working with police to assess “which areas of the city may need increased coverage or additional resources,” he added.
A Philadelphia social media influencer who was subsequently detained live-streamed the looting, according to the police, who claimed the large gang of masked attackers looked to have planned their attack on social media.
Before being discovered and imprisoned, Dayjia Blackwell, also known as “Meatball,” recorded footage of robbers breaking into a number of companies. Six charges were brought against her, according to the New York Post.
Blackwell is heard encouraging looters on her live broadcast and other films that she posts on her social media page, as well as making fun of police officers who are trying to put a stop to them.
In other social media footage, scores of people were seen rushing out of a Lululemon store with goods, many of them wearing hoodies or masks. A few of the evacuees are grabbed by police and forced onto the pavement.
According to the North 22nd Street Business Corridor, a business organisation, six establishments, including three pharmacies, a hair salon, a tax preparation firm, and a cellphone store, were broken into.
Photos of the devastation show mannequins and sneakers scattered across a sporting goods store in a mall, phones and accessories fell over at an Apple and T-Mobile store and numerous establishments with shattered glass windows and busted metal entry gates.
Only one of the seven vehicles reported as stolen from a lot in the northeast had been found as of Wednesday afternoon, according to police.