PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Amid the chaos across the city on Monday night, a local activist says he was standing on a corner in his neighborhood, hoping to help de-escalate the situation, when he ended up getting beaten up by police.
“We are your brothers and sisters. We’re not animals. You beat my husband like he was an animal in front of our house,” Saj Blackwell tells Eyewitness News.
She was so upset she could hardly speak. Saj Blackwell says her husband, Tommy Blackwell, went to the scene of looting and rioting on 52nd Street early Tuesday morning. She says he was there to ease tensions but instead was beaten himself, allegedly by police.
Tommy Blackwell is the grandson of former Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. The husband and wife duo now work with city youth to help them find a better way, so scenes like the one from Monday don’t happen.
“We hear what they say all the time but this is the first time today we were in their shoes. We were in their shoes because although my husband was trying to help and impact kids which was working, kids were turning around and that was the whole point to go home,” Saj Blackwell said.
The 22-minute altercation with police was streamed live on Facebook. At first, you hear Tommy say he wanted to bring peace to the neighborhood.
“This cannot happen. This cannot happen. We cannot repeat the same thing over and over and over again. When are we going to learn man?” Tommy Blackwell says in the video.
Later in the video police tell them to go home, but he tells them he can’t because he lives near 52nd Street which was closed off.
“We can’t get on our block, y’all got our block blocked off. We can’t get on the block,” he says.
It then appears as though he’s pushed to the ground. The live video stops when an officer picks up the phone and stops the recording. After the video stops is when Saj says Tommy was beaten. Eyewitness News spoke to her as he was awaiting treatment in the emergency room.
Saj says their work to try to de-escalate situations and try to change the mindset of young people and police officers in the city will not stop because of this incident.
“No, our fight will not stop because my husband is broken. You beat him, but you didn’t break him. You beat him, but you didn’t break him. So no, we will not stop,” Saj Blackwell said.
Saj says her husband suffered injuries to his hand and leg but should recover.
The night of unrest in Philadelphia started after police shot and killed a Black man armed with a knife in West Philly. Walter Wallace Jr., 27, was killed on Monday afternoon by two officers after, police say, he walked towards them and refused to drop the weapon.
Thirty Philadelphia police officers were injured during the unrest, and over 30 people were arrested for various charges, including looting, rioting, and assaulting officers. Businesses looted included pharmacies, clothing stores and restaurants.
The shooting and subsequent violence are now being investigated by the police, as well as the district attorney’s office.