PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The city announced it’s forming a steering committee to focus on reconciliation amid the George Floyd demonstrations as Philadelphia is under a citywide curfew for a sixth straight night. The curfew went into effect at 8 p.m. and lasts through 6 a.m. Friday.
Mayor Jim Kenney announced Thursday the committee will include civic and faith leaders, community-based organization representatives and members of the LGBTQ community.
“This group will be focused on the long-term, focused on reconciliation, focused on understanding, focused on listening. This moment is the beginning,” Kenney said.
Kenney says the city needs to hear the voices of men and women of color who have been silenced for too long. The group will focus on public safety, criminal justice reform and the underlying factors of what experts call “structural violence,” including pervasive poverty among Philadelphians. Kenney said the start of this was the removal of the Frank Rizzo statue.
“This listening, this effort towards reconciliation, frankly, is long overdue. The voices of those who have taken to the streets, their cries of anguish, and their demands to be heard have led us to this point,” Kenney said. “In launching this effort and forming this group, we pledge to do better, we pledge to do better.”
Kenney added that the city has struggled in reducing the poverty level and getting residents trained in jobs “that actually pay a living wage.”
“Philly is not a one-size-fits-all approach, so the work has to look from a bigger picture at a neighborhood-based level,” the mayor said.
North Philadelphia is in shambles after riots and looting happened earlier this week. Shops on Germantown Avenue, near the intersection of Broad and Erie Streets, are still boarded up.
“Tearing up and looting the buildings, that’s only hurting the community,” Dee Moses, a North Philly resident, said. “My phone store, they destroyed everything. How is that helping George Floyd’s memory? It’s not.”
Kenney and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw toured the area on Thursday afternoon.
“We have to meet folks where they are,” Outlaw said. “And it can’t always be in a sterile environment and sometimes you have to come up with a plan on the back of a napkin, meaning we don’t always have to time to plan meetings.”
Interactions with locals were mainly amicable. Outlaw was cheered. Kenney said he was there to listen, and the conversations with him were tough and direct.
“Just the other day, protesters were tear-gassed on 76,” resident Joshua Jones said. “I really want them to look at what’s going on in the world right now and I want them to really look back and analyze how the police is acting during all this.”
“We see them. We hear them. We care about them and we want to try to rebuild this back up and make it even better in the years to come,” Kenney said.
But frustrations and deep-rooted issues were also on display. A photographer with the Associated Press was sucker-punched. His attacker was quickly arrested.
Meanwhile, more peaceful George Floyd protests took place across the city Thursday afternoon. Kenney says as long as protesters are peaceful, the city will not stop them from demonstrating.
During a demonstration at the Art Museum, hundreds of protesters held a die-in for eight minutes and 46 seconds. That’s the amount of time a former Minneapolis officer knelt on Floyd’s neck.
Protesters also marched to Love Park and then to Independence Mall.
Over 750 arrests have been made since Saturday after some protests turned violent and looters ransacked businesses. At least 27 officers were injured, including one who remains hospitalized.
The National Guard is still deployed in the city.
Charges against Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin have been upgraded to second-degree unintentional murder in the death of Floyd after kneeling on his neck for several minutes while placing him in custody. Three other officers, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J Alexander Kueng, all face aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder, as well as aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
CBS3’s Howard Monroe contributed to this report.