CAMDEN, NJ — On Saturday, as he left rehearsal for a West Philadelphia church band, Troy Still was struck by what he saw.
As protestors took to the streets to demand justice for George Floyd, so did looters taking advantage of little police presence in some pockets of the city.
“I was in my car heading back and directed by Philadelphia Police to take an alternate route...once I was on Walnut Street I found myself right in the middle of the riot,” Still told TAPinto Camden. “I didn’t just want to be a sitting duck so I got out to look at my surroundings. What I mostly felt was the anger of the people.”
Still recorded on his phone.
Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's and other retailers in shambles. Glass-shattered storefronts. A police vehicle on fire. Streets blocked off by dumpsters. The sidewalk littered with shoe boxes and clothing.
“It’s a free for all,” he could be heard saying in the video.
Philadelphia's businesses, already in recovery mode because of COVID-19, have been dealt an extra blow as protests in some areas turn violent. The tumult led to the deployment of the National Guard and ultimately triggered a sixth conservative curfew order on Thursday.
What Still saw there was a stark contrast to what he witnessed that very morning in his own city, as Camden ralliers came together with the police force and other city leaders to peacefully stand in solidarity.
A football coach at Woodrow Wilson and dean of culture at Mastery High School, Still said he returned to Camden eager to take proactive measures against the threat of vandalism.
“I thought about my city, about my kids riding in the neighborhood every day and just people’s children here in general not being able to go outside because things are getting destroyed, or they may be afraid, especially during a pandemic” Still said.
Still said while Camden may not have as many retailers as the city across the Delaware River, there are plenty of mom-and-pop shops he doesn’t want to see taken advantage of. Many residents, he added, live above stores in the city — which could make a robbery or a fire caused by looters that much more dire for a family.
Rising Leaders Global founder and school board vice president N'namdee Nelson is currently working with Still and other community leaders to set up a meeting to discuss looting with the authorities.
So far, Still said he hasn’t seen any instances of it.
A break-in was reported at Luis Records & Electronics on Tuesday, in which a window was broken and property was stolen. However, the interior was not damaged.
The owner of the store was not immediately available to comment.
Mayor Frank Moran said the incident was not the result of any chaos in the city.
“They didn’t ransack his storefront,” Moran said in a Facebook video. “It was isolated. There’s peace throughout the city. The metro departments are doing an amazing job, and they’re on top of it”
Camden’s strength comes in banding together, Still said.
“The best thing we can do is to make the community aware,” shared Still, who recommended residents download the STOPit app to anonymously report problems in their neighborhoods.
Still is also planning to pass out 3,000 water ices on June 19 for Juneteenth.
“Right now it is important to spread positive vibes,” he said. “To uplift the community, for people to unplug and work to renew our minds.”