On 7th day of protests, Philly D.A. charges high-ranking police officer with aggravated assault

Updated 10:10 p.m.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced aggravated assault charges against a high-ranking city police officer for striking a protester who attends Temple University in the head with a police baton on Monday.

Earlier Friday, WHYY confirmed that Inspector Joseph Bologna, a commander linked to past misconduct and corruption scandals, was among those whose conduct this week was being reviewed.

According to District Attorney Larry Krasner, the student suffered serious injury, including a head wound that required approximately 10 staples and approximately 10 sutures.

“We are trying to be fair. Accountability has to be equal. This moment demands a swift and even-handed response to violent and criminal acts based on the facts and evidence,” Krasner said in a statement. “Americans are taking to the streets to demand a remaking of political, economic, and legal systems that serve the powerful at the expense of citizens’ health, welfare, and lives. There can be no safety or peace without justice. My office will continue to hold people who cause harm to others equally accountable.”

In a statement late Friday, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said she wasn’t “privy to the entirety of the information” used by Krasner, but said the criminal charges wouldn’t stop the internal affairs investigation she announced earlier Friday into the incident.

At an afternoon press conference, Outlaw said  “several” internal investigations into officer conduct during the ongoing demonstrations that have occurred in the last week protesting police brutality.

Outlaw added that she was aware of videos circulating showing confrontations between police officers and demonstrators. She said some of the clips appeared to show officers acting within department guidelines.

“[But] some of the images are disturbing and depict behavior that does not appear to be in accord with our policies,” Outlaw said Friday. I am deeply concerned about this.”

In her statement about the charged officer, she praised others on the force for working tirelessly under difficult conditions.

“These officers have demonstrated professionalism, dedication, and an unwavering commitment to our mission during tenuous and often volatile periods,” she said.

Although protests continued Thursday, Police made just four arrests — a marked decline from days prior.

“I am encouraged to report that [Thursday’s] protests were almost entirely peaceful,” Outlaw said.

So far there have been 759 arrests since protests began in Philadelphia Saturday. The majority have been code violations for breaking curfew or failing to disperse. There have been 231 arrests for looting or burglary, 15 for assaulting an officer and four firearms violations.

At least 27 officers have been injured since Saturday, and one remains hospitalized.

Commercial burglaries trend down

Since reaching a high of 411 on Monday, the number of commercial burglaries in Philadelphia has trended down.

On Thursday there were 47 burglaries, Outlaw said at a Friday press conference.

That’s still significantly higher than the burglary rate before civil unrest broke out in Philadelphia. Last Friday, Outlaw said, there were just three commercial burglaries in the city.

Police are, however, concerned about a group of thieves that stole tanks of oxygen and acetylene from a business in Northeast Philly.

Outlaw said the chemical combination could be “extremely dangerous in the hands of criminal actors.”

Police have not yet recovered the stolen tanks.

Rallies continue in Philadelphia

For the seventh day in row, protests in Philadelphia continued.

The larger unrest hit cities across the country after George Floyd died last week when being arrested and restrained by Minneapolis police for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Officer Derek Chauvin was seen on video with his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes. Chauvin, who had previously faced more than 15 conduct complaints, has been fired and charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers part of the altercation have also been fired.

On Friday, a mid-day march passed by the Art Museum under storm clouds, continuing toward City Hall and eventually turning south.

Natalie Harrington, 45, came from Mt. Airy with her friends and family. She said she was particularly struck by the video that showed the killing of Floyd — in particular the part where he called out for his mother. As a mother herself, she said the video reminded her of talks she’s had with her children about how to deescalate confrontations with police.

“We want to make sure we are heard and not discriminated against,” said Harrington.

Earlier in the day, medical professionals — many dressed in hospital attire — marched down Broad Street to support the ongoing protests.

Among them was Jessica Cellinesi, 25, a nurse at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She worked a shift Thursday night and showed up Friday on two-hours’ sleep.

“[I] just want justice for everybody. It’s unfair,” she said. “And we had to do something about it.”

National guard to remain in Philly

During her press remarks Friday, Outlaw said the National Guard will keep troops in Philadelphia “as long as we need them.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet in terms of — we don’t have a clear end-date for when this activity will cease,” said Outlaw.

She said that while protests have been mostly peaceful, there’s still looting taking place.

Outlaw says her department is better prepared for protests than it was when rallies began a week ago.

The department is expecting a large protest Saturday near the Art Museum area with “thousands” of attendees, Outlaw said. Traffic in the Center City will be restricted, she added. Last Saturday’s protest gave way to widespread looting and destruction in the night. There’s been conflicting theories about who is responsible for the damage.

Philly City Council announces $25 million to address racial inequality

City Council leadership announced Friday it will propose moving $25 million into a fund that will address the “social ills and racial disparities laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest roiling the city and country since the murder of George Floyd.”

Dubbed the “New Normal Budget Act,” the proposal includes few details about how the money will be spent.

A press release from City Council president Darrell Clarke said the funds will be used to improve health disparities, food access, affordable housing, poverty, education, employment, police oversight, and business development.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and unrest in our city and country these last few weeks have laid bare the disparities that were glossed over by a booming economy and years of cutting resources from our country’s social safety net,” Clarke said in a statement.

The $25 million would come out of the city’s reserve fund.

Clarke said decisions on how to spend the money would be made in the next several weeks.

Prior to the outbreak of civil unrest, the mayor’s emergency spending plan called for a reduction in violence prevention programs and an increase in the police department’s budget.

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