One year later: honoring Walter Wallace Jr.

by Mary Kalyna
Posted 11/4/21

More than 100 people gathered outside the Unitarian Society of Germantown Church on Lincoln Drive last Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of the police killing of Walter Wallace, Jr and to call for reforms.

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One year later: honoring Walter Wallace Jr.

Posted

More than 100 people gathered outside the Unitarian Society of Germantown Church on Lincoln Drive last Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of the police killing of Walter Wallace, Jr and to call for reforms.

"Remembering Walter Wallace, Jr.: A Vigil and A Call to Act" was presented by the POWER Interfaith Live Free Campaign and the "Standing in Solidarity for Racial Justice" Vigil at the Unitarian church.

Walter Wallace, Jr. was a 27-year-old Black man fatally shot by police in West Philadelphia on October 26, 2020, after family members called 911 for help as he experienced a mental health crisis. The responding police officers fired a hail of 14 bullets within one minute after they arrived on the scene, killing Mr. Wallace in front of his mother, other relatives and neighbors. No health care personnel had been dispatched.

“Unfortunately in our city when a person is facing a mental health crisis the family doesn’t have a choice except to call 911, for the most part,” said Rev. Mark Tyler, Co-Director of POWER Live Free and senior pastor at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. "An armed response should not be the first response,” he added.

The vigil took place one day after the city of Philadelphia announced that it would provide tasers and training to all police officers, part of a settlement with the Wallace family. POWER applauds the move, but Tyler said "that will not give us the public safety that we want," and called for a "radical new vision and reallocation of dollars." This includes a state-of-the art 911 system and a civilian response model with trained mental health professionals.

The two elected officials in attendance, Philadelphia City Council member-at-large Derek Green and PA State Rep. Chris Rabb, urged the diverse crowd - a "community of struggle" that Rabb said he was proud to represent -- to continue the fight for justice.

Other speakers included Rev. Kent Matthies, senior minister at the Unitarian Society of Germantown, Elder Melanie DuBose, Co-Director of POWER Live Free and pastor at Evangel Chapel in North Philadelphia, and Steve Strahs, a member of the POWER Real Public Safety Team.

Rabbi Linda Holtzman, Rabbinic leader at Tikkun Olam Chavurah, read the Mourner’s Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, while West African singer and Mt Airy resident Mariama O'Brien offered drumming and song.

The "Standing in Solidarity for Racial Justice" Vigil continues every Tuesday and Friday at 5pm on Lincoln Drive. Info at solidarity@usguu.org.

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  • Fightback

    We should be careful who we honor. It greatly devalues the truly marginalized.

    Walter Wallace has many videos on youtube glorifying murdering people, including the police.

    He was arrested multiple times with crimes that included threatening to "shoot up" neighbors homes, entering a woman's home and holding a gun to her head and punching a police officer in the face.

    On the day the police showed up, he approach them with a knife. These officers knew Wallace - because they had been repeatedly called out there, by neighbors. Witnesses confirmed that the police repeatedly asked him to put down the knife and back away. He continued to approach with the knife when he was shot.

    Danielle Outlaw stated that the witnesses on the scene (neighbors, mostly African American) did not question the police response. Later gatherings were largely white people (presumably from the suburbs).

    I know people want to feel like they are doing a good thing by honoring this man, but they are not. There are true systemic problems of economy, opportunity, education and wealth that led to this situation that should be addressed. But calling the police racist and advocating to defund them will hurt these impoverished neighborhoods even more. It will not, of course, hurt the largely white upper middle class neighborhoods where is suspect a great number of these activists are from.

    Using the "mental health crisis" argument is a straw man - do we honor the recently exposed pedophile at SCH due to his mental illness?

    Lastly, the local should do a better job. They have an obligation - a duty - to not post a completely one-sided opinion that will ultimately do harm to race relations and stifle positive outcomes. Again, using the example above... if i were to write an article entitled "Honoring the SCH pedophile and his mental health crisis" i'm sure they would not post it.

    Wednesday, November 10 Report this