As protests spread statewide, Wolf urges Pennsylvanians to ‘speak your mind and speak it with peace’

Gov. Tom Wolf briefs reporters at Pa. Emergency Management Agency HQ in Susquehanna Twp., Pa., on Sunday, 5/31/20. Wolf urged calm ahead of planned protests statewide calling for justice for George Floyd (Screen Capture)

Addressing the wave of protests statewide following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and with the expectation of more to come Sunday, Gov. Tom Wolf has called on Pennsylvanians to call out injustice peacefully.

“I’d like to appeal to the spirit of Pennsylvania in all of us. People will gather in many spots in Pennsylvania to protest the death of George Floyd. They will call attention to the commonwealth we all deserve … one that is fair and equal to everyone. These demonstrations are a reminder that our democracy is a continual work in progress,” Wolf said during a press briefing on Sunday afternoon. “I urge everyone in these demonstrations to be peaceful.”

Wolf and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Director Randy Padfield took questions from reporters about the protests that erupted in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on Saturday night. 

Padfield said it would take a few days to see where violent protests had caused the most damage, but guessed that Philadelphia had taken the brunt of it Saturday night. 

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Late Saturday night, Wolf activated an emergency disaster declaration, which Padfield said gives state officials more options in addressing escalating protests. 

“We plan for the worst, but hope for the best,” Padfield said about how PEMA plans to respond to unrest at statewide protests.

PEMA has filled requests from Montgomery and Philadelphia counties for National Guard support, Padfield said. 

Padfield added that National Guard support in western Pennsylvania is on standby in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County should it be needed. 

Wolf said he was  proud of the way law enforcement has handled the situation across the state. He said he has not seen any troubling incidents involving law enforcement officers. 

Harrisburg protest over George Floyd turns violent; Police use pepper spray on protesters

Padfield was unable to provide the number of Pennsylvania State Police responding to various protests statewide. 

Working alongside Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Wolf said he, “will continue to work to make sure that everyone has the right to have their voices heard. I urge all of us to continue to call out injustice. We should be doing that.”

While Wolf said he has made it a priority of his administration to address racism and oppression, he said, “We still have more work to do.”

“We need to work constantly to eliminate racism,” Wolf said, “from the smallest thought, to the biggest action.”

Cassie Miller
A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.