Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw Statement:
“This afternoon, at approximately 4:55 p.m., Philadelphia Police responded to the I-676 expressway, between the 20th and 22nd Street bridges, in order to render assistance to PA State Police. A crowd of over one hundred persons had breached the fencing and proceeded onto the roadway. While on the roadway, the crowd surrounded a State Trooper, who was alone and seated in his vehicle, and began rocking the vehicle, with the trooper having no safe means of egress.
Two teams from the Philadelphia Police SWAT Unit arrived. While the SWAT officers were present, members of the crowd began throwing rocks at the officers from the north and south sides, and from the bridges above the officers. The crowd also began rushing toward the officers.
The SWAT officers gave numerous orders for the crowd to disperse, to which the crowd did not comply.
Approximately, 5:05 p.m., SWAT Team 2 deployed FN OC spray pellets, OC spray, and bean bags in the direction of the crowd. SWAT Team 1 deployed FN OC pellets and bean bags.
Afterward, SWAT officers simultaneously deployed non-chemical white smoke and CS gas (tear gas). This simultaneous deployment allows the officers to use less CS gas, while maintaining a deterrent visual effect.
All deployments ceased at 5:15 p.m., and numerous arrests were made, without further incident.
“We have repeatedly assured our great communities that we will protect, preserve, and uphold every person’s constitutional right to protest. However, we can not tolerate acts of violence and other criminal activity,” stated Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, adding, “Today’s deployment of tear gas was a means to safely diffuse a volatile and dangerous situation, and restore order, when it became increasingly clear that other measures were ineffective in accomplishing that necessary objective. We will continue to evaluate the propriety of all applications of force, and make determinations as the circumstances of each unique situation dictate.”
As is the case for all applications of force, this incident will be investigated by the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division. That investigation has already been initiated and will continue to unfold.
Mayor Jim Kenney Statement:
“The use of tear gas during a demonstration is something that I never wanted to witness during my time as mayor. I’m deeply saddened that peaceful protests for such an important cause are being diminished by actions that threaten public safety.
“I want to assure the public that this was not a decision that anyone took lightly. It was made because we simply cannot condone behaviors that endanger the lives of others, like traversing an open highway. The officers on site were concerned about the safety of protestors as well as those who may be driving on the highway.
“After issuing several warnings, they made the decision to deploy tear gas to encourage the crowd to disperse. While I regret that it came to that, and I am disturbed by the footage that I’ve seen, I support decisions made by the Department to resolve today’s activity.
“I also support activity by people like Deputy Commissioner Melvin Singleton, who was able to peacefully disperse a crowd in Center City by kneeling with them, activity that was mirrored by officers across the City, including outside the Police Administration building.
“We will only be able to move forward if we are united together, and we must keep each other safe while supporting each other through our grief.
“I urge Philadelphians to continue peaceful protesting in ways that do not put yourselves, your fellow Philadelphians, or law enforcement officers in danger.”