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In Wake of Philly Crime Spree, DelVal Legislators Want Increased Penalties for Rioting

Soon after a Philadelphia judge dismissed charges against the former cop who shot and killed Eddie Irizarry, some people said it was time to riot on social media. That message reached enough people to inspire break-ins at Apple, Foot Locker, and other stores across the city, resulting in 119 arrests as of Friday afternoon.

The call to what police have termed “criminal opportunists” also reached the city’s suburbs. Now, some lawmakers are taking action.

At a press conference Thursday, a group of state legislators from Bucks County announced a bill to increase the penalties for rioting.

“While recognizing that peaceful protests are one of our fundamental rights, the line between peaceful assembly and violent rioting has been crossed,” said Rep. Shelby Labs (R-Bedminster).

The bill would “increase the felony grading for out-of-state individuals who aid and perpetuate violent rioting, as well as citizens who knowingly participate in assisting or recruiting rioters,” she said.

The bill includes rioters who assault or throw projectiles at police, law enforcement, and first responders and would face felony charges. Out-of-state actors who incite riots would also face felony charges. Pennsylvania residents who knowingly assist in coordinating or recruiting out-of-staters to cause a riot would also face felony charges.

“The events in Philadelphia this week are a clear example of why we need to increase the penalties for rioting,” said Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Richboro). “A handful of agitators used the peaceful protests to burglarize stores and destroy property because they did not believe they would be arrested or face harsh penalties. We will be working together with Sen. Frank Farry to update the legislation to ensure it specifically targets these criminals, including the outsiders who encouraged this behavior.”

Some in the community are upset by suggestions that the rioters’ actions were somehow legitimized by anger over the judge’s ruling in the Irizarry shooting case. For example, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jenice Armstrong quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in her response to the violence: “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

Armstrong insisted she “does not condone rioting, not one bit.” However, she added, “rioters didn’t break into those businesses just because they wanted the latest iPad or a pair of overpriced yoga pants. Sure, some vandals saw it as a chance to create mayhem, but some were out there that night because they are angry.”

Labs told reporters Thursday, “Rioting is not a solution. It’s a destructive act that harms our communities and endangers our law enforcement. Criminals have used lawful protests to engage in lawless behavior. The best way to stop this is to increase the penalties for those committed to destroying businesses and personal property.”

Farry called out one social media influencer by name for her role in promoting the violence in Philadelphia’s streets.

“We want to ensure that those who are actually rioting are caught and charged but also those who are organizing it,” Farry said. “If anyone has seen the video that’s gone national from social media influencer ‘Meatball,’ she was essentially organizing some of the looting that was going on in Philadelphia and directing those actions.

“We need to ensure the people who are organizing this chaos, destroying our businesses, scaring our citizens, putting our law enforcement in harm’s way and tying up their resources, serve a significant amount of time in jail for such crimes,” Farry said.

“Meatball,” aka Dayjia Blackwell, 21, was arrested Thursday on charges of conspiracy, burglary, and rioting for the crime spree she caught — and allegedly promoted — on her social media livestream.

“I regret it,” Blackwell told a local TV station after she was bailed out of jail. “I just prefer, you know, never loot again, stay out of trouble, never go to jail,”

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REGAN: Rioting in Philadelphia Costing Commonwealth Millions

Law and order are long overdue in the City of Brotherly Love. This week’s rioting is the latest black eye on Philadelphia in an ongoing saga of dangerous incidents that keep piling up.  Disgraceful criminals with zero respect for the city, for their neighbors, and for businesses that fuel the local economy have caused destruction beyond belief.

As Chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, I want to commend the Philadelphia City Police, who have managed to make arrests and reel in the lawlessness each evening. The Police are doing their job in reestablishing law and order. I wish the same could be said for District Attorney Larry Krasner, whose philosophy has added to the mayhem in Philadelphia because criminals understand his reluctance to prosecute them.

This lax approach and allowing criminals to take control is resulting in severe losses to the city.  Tourists are too fearful to visit. Businesses are relocating to other cities. Law abiding residents have decided to move on.

And the impact will not just be on Philadelphia. The city’s economy is a significant driver of Pennsylvania’s economy.

The Law and Justice Committee, in addition to overseeing police matters, has oversight of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and medical marijuana issues.

Rioters have hit PA liquor stores across the city, resulting in an estimated loss of $750,000 to $1,000,000 each day those stores are closed. This does not even take into account the loss of product stolen by these criminals and the cost of clean-up.

Additionally, a medical marijuana dispensary in the city was broken into as part of the looting efforts. Authorities have not yet released what all, if anything, was stolen, but it is one more business that should not be dealing with a mess of replacing windows, doors, display cases and anything else that was damaged.

All of this costs time and money. While these costs will be paid upfront by business owners, insurance companies, and in the case of state stores – taxpayers, ultimately, these damages will be passed on to everyone through higher prices on goods, insurance premiums, and increased taxes to ensure the continuation of police coverage.

I certainly hope those that were advocating to de-fund the police in recent years realize that approach serves no one. If it was your business being looted, you’d expect the police to respond. But if we’re not funding them, obviously, there won’t be anyone to help you.

We not only need to continue funding the police but also protecting them and ensuring our rioting laws are updated and keeping up with changing times. That is why I commend my colleague Senator Frank Farry (R-Bucks) and am happy to join in his effort to sponsor legislation targeting rioters, particularly out-of-state residents who travel here for the purpose of rioting and those Commonwealth residents who recruit out-of-staters to riot in Pennsylvania. I will be working with him to also include measures that hold accountable those who use social media to rally troops to riot, fueling the fire and further creating mayhem. All of these individuals will face felony charges under our legislation.

At least in the rest of Pennsylvania. Maybe not in Larry Krasner’s Philadelphia.


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