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Philly Officials Apologize for Tear Gassing I-676 Protestors; Fishtown Vigilante Charged; SEPA Green
  by: iradioal - Philadelphia, PA
started: 06/26/20 1:16 am | updated: 06/26/20 1:16 am
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw publicly apologized on Thursday, 6/25, for the use of force including tear gas, OC spray, and non-lethal projectiles implemented against protesters on the Vine Street Expressway I-676 on Monday, June 1 after the New York Times released a compilation video describing the incident. On May 31, in response to looting and rioting, Kenney, Outlaw, Managing Director Brian Abernathy, Fire Chief Adam Thiel and other members of the Kenney Administration dubbed 'Unified Command' had given incident commanders pre-approval to use less-than-lethal force, if warranted, to deal with violent crowds. Philadelphia Police Department Deputy Dennis Wilson said he gave the order to use tear gas on I-676. "I and I alone gave the approval to use CS gas," Wilson said. "I did this based on what I could see from my position, and also what I had been hearing on the radio... For violating the rules of engagement and the commissioner's trust, I'm gonna take a voluntary demotion."

"Effective immediately, I am issuing a categorical moratorium on the use of tear gas for the dispersal or control of crowds, which includes any persons who are peacefully or passively resisting. We are also evaluating all other ammunitions available to SWAT personnel," Outlaw said. "The only time we could consider deploying tear gas is in the case we are presented with an armed and dangerous individual."

The officer that is seen spraying several protesters in the face with mace as they were kneeling on the ground faces administrative charges of conduct unbecoming of an officer and unauthorized or excessive use of force. He will be suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss. The district attorney will also be sent information on the case. City Council and the Kenney administration are conducting their own separate investigations into the incident.

A man has been arrested for allegedly attacking a journalist and a woman in Fishtown the day a group of 'vigilantes' with bats and clubs patrolled the neighborhood to protect it from Black Lives Matter protesters. 36-year-old George Graf has been charged with criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy to engage in simple assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. It happened on Monday, June 1. That night, several residents of Fishtown stood outside the 26th Police District along Girard Avenue seemingly with the approval of police and engaged in confrontations with others. A WHYY producer was filming what was going on. He was confronted by Graf for filming and attacked. They also shoved his girlfriend. The journalist suffered a broken nose and lower eye socket and his left eye was swollen shut. "I want to thank my office's Special Investigations Unit for working non-stop to ensure that individuals who intimidated, harassed, or assaulted peaceful protesters and mere bystanders are identified correctly and brought to justice," Krasner said. "You don't get to call yourself a 'vigilante' when you are just committing crimes. You don't get to say you are defending, when you are initiating violence. I want to thank all of the brave Philadelphians who have come forward in recent weeks to share photo and video evidence with my Special Investigations Unit. We know there are more perpetrators of violence to be identified and brought in. Keep it coming."

The Philadelphia region has moved into the 'green' phase after almost three months of shutdown. Now, green doesn't mean back to normal. We still live in a pandemic world, just look at all the states in the south that are having record outbreaks. That means masks or face coverings required, wash your hands, and social distancing. Green does mean that most of the economy can get back to business, just safely. Finally, personal care businesses (salons, spas, nails, barbers) can open. Gyms, indoor recreation, health and wellness centers can open. Entertainment venues, theaters, casinos, zoos, and shopping malls can open. Bars and restaurants can open indoors. Expect all of those places to have occupancy restrictions of 50% and distancing guidelines inside. Don't expect any big events, concerts, sports, festivals, or shows anytime soon. Gatherings over 250 are prohibited. All business must follow CDC and PA Health guidelines.

The City of Philadelphia is taking a slower approach. On Friday, 6/26, Residential swimming pools and private swim clubs, Zoos, Personal services such as salons, barbers, and spas, and Small indoor social and religious gatherings (up to 25 people) are permitted. On July 3, Outdoor group recreational and sports activities for youth and adults, Gyms and indoor exercise classes, Schools and colleges, Libraries and museums, Indoor shopping malls, Outdoor performances and small outdoor events (up to 50 people), and Indoor Restaurants with occupancy restrictions. Casinos, large outdoor events (more than 50), and larger indoor events (more that 25) will have to wait.

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