Call to Take Back Streets

Jordan Harris, Philadelphia Youth Commissioner left with City council candidate Kenyatta Johnson, joined dozens of civic leaders in a protest against gun violence in South Philadelphia with a march from the 1500 block of Bucknell Street to 32nd and Tasker both scene of recent shootings - ABDUL R. SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER

Officials urge cooperation between neighbors, police


“Cowards” and “thugs” were some of the words used during a press conference at the 17th Police District held by state Rep. Kenyatta Johnson in response to the shootings in South Philadelphia.

Johnson, noted for his work in the South and Southwest Philadelphia, expressed his outrage at those who threaten the lives of other citizens without regard for children, which is evidenced by the fact that two children were shot in the mayhem.

Joined by NAACP’s Jerry Mondesire, state Sen. Anthony Williams, and 17th Police District Capt. Anthony Washington along with a host of community stakeholders, Johnson described the conference as a “community plan of action.”

“This is a call to action,” said Johnson “Over the last month in South Philadelphia, we have had a spike in the incidence of gun violence. Most notably, a six-year-old and a two-year-old was shot, a senior citizen was shot, a 10-year-old was shot and, most recently and we’ve had two homicides.”

Johnson, a native of South Philadelphia’s Point Breeze section, informed the gathering press conference was held not only because of his position as an elected official but as a member of the community.

“We have come to promote a united front, to let those in the community know that enough is enough,” said Johnson, who went on to recount some of the previous marches and vigils, which he organized in the Grays Ferry section of South Philly.

“All of that work that we have done would have been in vain if we let these cowardly heartless thugs shoot up our neighborhoods rather it is in Point Breeze or Grays Ferry,” exclaimed Johnson.

Johnson revealed what he calls his “community action plan” which included working closely with community stakeholders, increasing police presence in South Philadelphia.

“We want to make sure that we also support the 17th police district and the first police district as they enforce the curfew hours, particularly in the hot spots in Grays Ferry and Point Breeze and put pressure on those individuals who do not have the best interest of our community at heart,” said Johnson.

Other measures will also include working closely with the Board of Probation and Parole.

“More importantly, we need the community to come forward with information. We need the community to step up to the plate, if you see something, say something,” said Johnson, promising to assist and support those who do so.

Washington stated that, although the perpetrators of the recent shootings have not yet been identified and apprehended, several individuals were being closely watched.

“Unfortunately, we do have individuals among us, numerous individuals who want to do nothing but harm others,” said Washington, explaining that patrols will be ramped up.

Washington believes that some of the individuals suspected of causing some of the violence in South Philadelphia were those who were previously incarcerated and returned to the neighborhood with the intent of continuing some of the criminal behavior, which led to their arrests in the first place.

Despite the recent rash of violent shootings, Washington said the 17th Police District has had a decrease in violent crime over the past several years.

“I don’t want people to come here today and have the opinion that this is just a complete war zone. That is not what we have going on here,” said Washington.

“We are here to condemn the immorality and any inhuman behavior regardless of the color of the perpetrators,” exclaimed J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the NAACP Philadelphia branch. “Today, this day, the NAACP is here to condemn in the harshest language possible the conspiracy of silence that has developed after the bloodshed which left a two-year-old child with a bullet in her belly.”

Mondesire pulled no punches during his address to those gathered exclaiming that “a community that sits silent after its children are slaughtered does not deserve to be called civilized.”

While speakers referred to the perpetrators of such shootings as occurred in South Phila as cowards, Mondesire noted that there are other cowards who are not often mentioned during such conversations.

“The cowards who won’t cooperate with law enforcement are not deserving of respect or consideration. There is no white conspiracy here, there is a Black conspiracy by cowards who will protect other cowards who will shoot any one of us here irrespective of their color,” said Mondesire, who urged members of the community who might have information about the perpetrators to step forward.

The Philadelphia Crime Commission has collected money for rewards for information leading to the apprehension of those responsible in these crimes and information can be given anonymously. Also, the NAACP is offering $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for shooting of the two-year-old child.

“We are not playing and we are not afraid to call it like we see it. Somebody Black shot that child, somebody Black knows who shot this child, somebody Black better come forward!” said Mondesire, sparking applause from the audience as he left the podium.

A vigil was also held at 6:30 p.m., organized by Jordan A. Harris of the Philadelphia Youth Commission. Rally organizers held a prayer vigil and rally against the violence on the streets by marching to areas where the shootings occurred.

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