HARRISBURG (KDKA) — Governor Tom Wolf held a press conference Sunday after protests became violent in multiple cities across the state, including Pittsburgh.
“Every Pennsylvanian should speak out against violence and oppression, and the recent murder of George Floyd in Minnesota has rightfully outraged many of us. Pennsylvanians are joining together to speak out against this injustice, and make their voices heard, peacefully,” Wolf said. “But yesterday was a challenging day for many cities in our commonwealth as these peaceful protests were co-opted by violence and looting. This is unacceptable.”
Gov. Wolf signed a disaster emergency declaration Saturday evening. Wolf also has expanded the powers of Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency or PEMA to assist law enforcement agencies in different counties. PEMA Director David Padfield spoke extensively about what measures the National Guard will take to assist the state in curtailing violence at protests, including Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.
“Here at PEMA, we will continue to work with our county and city partners throughout the day and overnight to address any additional needs as citizens of the commonwealth exercise their rights to peaceful demonstration and to protect property and lives,” Padfield said. “Many of these jurisdictions that we deal with on a daily basis, including the city of Philadelphia, obviously the city of Harrisburg and Pittsburgh have robust mutual aid plans in place and have plans in place to be able to deal with these types of situations. So we really stand at the ready to be able to augment them if they need any additional assistance should things escalate.”
Padfield stated that Montgomery County and the city of Philadelphia requested for the Pennsylvania National Guard. There will also be members of the Guard present in western Pennsylvania, according to Padfield.
We’re also standing up additional National Guard in the western part of the state should they be needed for the city of Pittsburgh or Allegheny County. And that is completely proactive. We actually have no official resource request, but we’re just putting them there just in case.”
Padfield clarified that the National Guard will not be “on the frontlines” handling violent protesters and will attend to other duties local law enforcement would otherwise have to handle. Based on anecdotal reports, Padfield said that the city of Philadelphia endured the worst property damage but that “there was also significant damage in Pittsburgh as well.” An official assessment will reportedly take place over the coming days.
“I will continue to work with Mayors Kenney, Peduto, Papenfuse, and others to make sure that everyone is able to make their voices heard, while keeping each other safe, and I want to thank of all our first responders,” Wolf said. “I urge everyone to be peaceful. I urge everyone to have respect for our communities and our neighbors. I urge all of us to continue to call out injustice. I don’t want to lose sight of why we are here.”