Residents of Southwest Philadelphia turned out in force Monday night to demand answers after the weekend fire that killed four children, at times sparking an angry outcry that drew scores of police officers and set the neighborhood on edge, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The protest, which resulted in several clashes and led to a number of arrests, followed an afternoon community meeting at which residents challenged the fire commissioner over how long it took firefighters to respond to Saturday’s devastating early morning fire.
Frustration over the Fire Department’s response escalated throughout the evening as the crowd moved from the community meeting to a nearby fire station and then back to the scene of the fire, on the 6500 block of Gesner Street.
Residents, some wearing T-shirts that bore photos of the children, chanted “Liars” outside the fire station. The protest escalated after 7 p.m. as a ladder truck apparently tried to move out of the station house. When several people lay down on the street, police moved in and grabbed them by their legs to pull them back.
Other officers pushed back the crowd, which dispersed to nearby Woodland Avenue. Police, batons in hand, pursued the protesters, some of whom hurled water bottles. Dozens of officers formed a blue wall to keep the crowd in check. At one point, fire commanders went into the crowd on Gesner to answer questions.
The tension capped a day when the Fire Department tried to address rumors of a delayed response that began circulating in the neighborhood just hours after the fire.
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