PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia City Council is taking a closer look at the police response to protests that erupted in Philadelphia following George Floyd’s death. It’s just one of many inquiries into what happened on May 30, 31 and June 1 in the city.
In a virtual testimony, one witness said the extent of tear gas released by police was everywhere. She said people in wheelchairs and on second and third floors were all hit in that time frame.
A City Council hearing is underway Wednesday, with witnesses offering accounts of alleged excessive force at the hands of Philadelphia police.
“At that point, volleys of tear gas, which I captured on my Facebook Live, started falling in our midst,” Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, of Mother Bethel AME Church, said. “There was no warning, no announcement and no provocation.”
Two major incidents are under review — the tear-gassing, pepper-spraying and bean-bagging of demonstrators on the Vine Street Expressway on June 1, and the hours-long violent exchange between police and mobs of people at 52nd and Market Streets in West Philadelphia on May 31.
“They include positions of pastors, students, longtime residents and many others who were looking to talk about exercising their freedom of speech,” Councilwoman Helen Gym said.
Gym tells CBS3 city officials and members of the police department will testify at a later date.
Police officials have previously confirmed tear gas and escalation of force was initiated as a last resort following days of protests across the country after the killing of George Floyd.
Two police officers have since been criminally charged in connection to the handling of demonstrators.
Numerous investigations of police conduct are now at varying stages, including the independent after action review ordered by the city, which is being headed by attorney Nicole Philips of the firm Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads.
“We’re talking to police personnel from top to bottom, and those that were on the ground at the command level and what have you. And we’re synthesizing that data and again, with that community input from the protester perspective, impacted businesses — we’ve talked to business owners who were impacted — and putting all of that together for a very comprehensive review and report,” Philips said.
As far as the independent report, that is expected to be published and ready for City Council and mayoral overview by the end of November.