Philadelphia suffered its second night in a row of mass looting incidents and destructive social media-fueled mayhem on Wednesday, resulting in more than 50 arrests, police said.
On Wednesday, groups of thieves, apparently working together, destroyed property in several areas of the city, smashed their way into stores, and stole as much as they could before fleeing, authorities said. Culprits also reportedly stole an ATM and ransacked more than a dozen state-run liquor stores so thoroughly that the state announced it was closing its Philly locations until further notice.
At least 52 suspects were arrested, including 49 adults and three juveniles, according to the Philadelphia Police Department. They face criminal charges, including burglary, theft and other counts, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office said.
The flash mob-style looting spree started just after 8 p.m. Tuesday at dozens of stores, including Foot Locker, Lululemon and an Apple store, just hours after a judge ruled to dismiss a murder charge against a white Philadelphia police officer who shot and killed Black resident Eddie Irizarry.
The thefts and unrest stretched from downtown to northeast and west Philadelphia.
Benjamin Nochum, a pharmacist and store manager at Patriot Pharmacy, which was targeted Wednesday, said it was the third time in three years his business had been hit.
“When looters steal from us, what they don’t seem to understand is that they are also stealing from our neighbors,” Nochum said. “It makes you question how much longer you can hang on.”
Independent photojournalist Rebecca Brannon posted a video on X showing an ATM was ripped from a Wells Fargo bank in Philadelphia.
The theft also included at least 18 state-run liquor stores, which were broken into and cleaned out. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board announced on Wednesday it would be closing all 48 of its Philadelphia retail locations. It also said it would be closing its one store in suburban Cheltenham.
The stores were “closed in the interest of employee safety and while we assess the damage and loss that occurred. We will reopen stores when it is safe to do so and when the damage is repaired,” liquor board spokesperson Shawn Kelly said in a statement.
No employees were hurt, but “some were understandably shaken,” Kelly added.
Interim Police Commissioner John Stanford said at a news conference on Tuesday that those doing the ransacking — who he referred to as “a bunch of criminal opportunists” — were not affiliated with a peaceful protest that gathered immediately after the judge’s decision was announced.
Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, called the looting on Tuesday a “sickening display of opportunistic criminal activity.”
“This destructive and illegal behavior cannot and will not be tolerated in our city,” he said.
His administration is working with police to assess “which areas of the city may need increased coverage or additional resources,” he added.
Police said the mass group of masked assailants appeared to have organized their efforts on social media and a Philadelphia social media influencer, who was later arrested, live-streamed the looting.
Dayjia Blackwell, better known as “Meatball,” filmed looters targeting several businesses before she was caught and subsequently arrested. She was charged with six felonies, according to the New York Post.
In her live stream and other videos posted on her social media account, Blackwell can be heard encouraging looters and laughing at police officers desperate to stop them.
Other videos on social media showed dozens of people, many in hoodies or masks, running out of a Lululemon store with merchandise. Police officers grab several of the people fleeing and tackle them to the sidewalk.
Six businesses in a single retail corridor of North Philadelphia were looted, including three pharmacies, a hair salon, a tax preparation company and a cellphone store, according to the North 22nd Street Business Corridor, a business group.
Photos of the destructive wake show a sporting goods store at a mall with mannequins and sneakers scattered about; an Apple store and a T-Mobile store with phones and accessories toppled over; and several businesses with shattered glass windows and smashed metal door gates.
Police said seven cars were stolen from a lot in the northeast, with only one of the cars recovered as of Wednesday afternoon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.