by Alex Lloyd Gross
Deputy Police Commissioner Dennis Wilson took a “voluntary” demotion to the rank of Chief Inspector after the New York Times published a video of the police response to the 676 protest on June 1, 2020. That after his boss, Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said “In the weeks that have followed, I have learned that relative to 676, those statements are substantially inaccurate,” Outlaw said. “As I have now personally viewed video evidence that largely contradicts the material portions of those statements. In making those statements, I relied on statements which was relayed to me after the initial deployment and for that, I humbly apologize for those who were directly impacted as well as to our communities at large.” Wilson, Outlaw and Mayor Jim Kenney were at a press conference yesterday, June 25, 2020.
Wilson took the microphone and said that it was “I and I alone” that decided to use tear gas . He was supposed to get approval from Outlaw prior to it’s use on 676 and he did not. Effective at the close of business yesterday, June 25, 2020, Wilson was demoted back to Chief Inspector. He was on the ground on June 1 . He observed a scene that was anything but peaceful. It was downright dangerous.
Speeding traffic was forced to an abrupt stop as several hundred protesters jumped the fences around the controlled access interstate and walked on foot to an unknown destination, east bound. When cars stop, vehicles behind them must stop as well. This is a very dangerous situation because officials know the risk of a secondary incident is real. Assume vehicles are backed up a mile down the road, a vehicle may not be able to stop in time. That car could slam into the rear of a car in front and start a chain reaction incident, which could result in injury or death.
It is doubtful that the motorists on 676 felt safe, watching a mass of protesters walking their way. Some of the protesters were spraying graffiti . At least one defaced a Pennsylvania State Police vehicle, by spray painting the windshield. That made the car undrivable. This happened just after a trooper said on the radio the crowd was peaceful,. Keep in mind that protesters set police cars on fire and turned them over just the day before. Many motorists felt panicked. They use 676 to get to a destination. Work, hospital, errands. With this impromptu demonstration not even an ambulance could get through. Many people feel that a competent police commander would use anything to get the protesters off the highway.
Police were also pelted from above and also on the ground by some of the protesters throwing rocks and other debris at officers. Once the decision to use tear gas, pepper spray and white smoke was made, the protesters could be observed scurrying to get off the highway. The less lethal spray worked. It was misused when a SWAT officer walked over to three protesters and sprayed them from a hand canister. He even ripped the mask from the face of a female protester,o Diamonik Hough who was struck by police projectiles was also sprayed.. The officer seen on video spraying the three from a canister will be fired and possibly charged by District Attorney Larry Krasner. Multiple protesters will be filing a lawsuit against the city from this incident. They have all retained the Fitzpatrick law firm in Philadelphia.
Mayor Kenney said that he “regretted the decision to use tear gas on the protesters “. There is now a moratorium on the use of tear gas except in the most violent situations. City officials said that even though the protesters were illegally on the highway and blocked traffic, their conduct does not rise to the level where tear gas would be warranted. Several protesters who were on the highway had trouble climbing a hill to escape, then had to vault over a fence, after walking through the acrid spray of tear gas and smoke. Many were seen being dragged down by police and arrested.
The video from the New York Times was spliced together by photos and other videos made by amateur photographers and put on the internet for people to use for free. Some of the footage was used from local television stations. The snippets do not show the entire incident or what led up to it. .