In the wake of a shooting that disrupted Philadelphia’s July Fourth celebrations, scattering a crowd of thousands from the fireworks display, Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters he’ll be happy when he leaves office and can “enjoy some stuff.”
The comments spurred some Philly residents — and public officials — to say they’re fed up with the city’s top leadership.
“There’s not a block captain that stands up and says, I don’t want to live here. I don’t want to watch these kids,” said Tyrique Glasgow, a Southwest Philly violence intervention advocate. “They run block parties. They run summer camps. They don’t quit on the community. What our mayor did, he quit. And he said it.”
When Kenney’s term is over, Glasgow said, tons of people in the city will still be dealing with the reality he apparently wants to escape.
The mayor’s words didn’t surprise him, Glasgow added. “From what we see in the community, he’s asleep at the wheel,” Glasgow said. “He woke up last night and said what was on his heart. Anybody who knows, knows.”
Several of Kenney’s fellow elected officials, including some who are likely preparing to run for mayor themselves, are also calling for his resignation.
“I think the mayor’s comments were asinine,” said District 9 Councilmember Cherelle Parker, a likely mayoral candidate in 2023. “I called him. And I told him that if you can feel this way, imagine how Philadelphians who don’t have the ability to check out feel.”
Kenney made his comments a few hours after gunshots disrupted the Welcome America finale on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, grazing two police officers but not injuring anyone seriously.
Speaking to the media outside Jefferson Hospital shortly after midnight, the mayor decried Pennsylvania Republicans’ refusal to let the city set its own, stricter gun laws, and said the prevalence of firearms in the U.S. is “crazy.” Asked how concerned he was about hosting big events, he said “I’m concerned every single day. There’s not an event or a day where I don’t lay on my back and look at the ceiling and worry about stuff.
“I’m waiting for something bad to happen all the time,” Kenney said. “I’ll be happy when I’m not here, when I’m not mayor, and I can enjoy some stuff.”
‘Let me be clear, I’m incredibly grateful to be mayor’
It remains unclear where the Fourth of July shots came from, and whether they were celebratory or intentional, but they caused a panic at the time. Crowds of people ran from the area surrounding the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Eakins Oval, streaming through the nearby streets. The Parkway remained closed Tuesday.
On Tuesday afternoon, Kenney issued a statement saying he wanted to “clarify” his comments, which he said he made in “a late-night, overwhelming moment of frustration.”
“Let me be clear, I’m incredibly grateful to be mayor of this great city and for the people who elected me to lead,” Kenney said. “I care deeply about the safety of our residents and the future of our city, and that’s why I’m disappointed with how I conveyed my sentiments last night. I made Philadelphians feel like I don’t care, and that cannot be further from the truth.”
Rick, a Northeast Philly resident who preferred not to use his last name, said he has sympathy for the mayor — crime in the city is “overwhelming” right now. But, he added, if Kenney “can’t handle the pressures and battles that come with the job anymore, then stepping down would be ideal.”
Other city politicians chimed in throughout Tuesday.
City Controller and likely mayoral candidate Rebecca Rhynhart called Kenney’s comments “the most irresponsible statement,” and added that Philadelphia “needs leadership, not someone who doesn’t want the job.” At-large Councilmember Helen Gym, who is also considering a run, said Kenney “may be defeated but this city won’t be,” and called for more anti-violence programs.
“We are all exhausted by the level of gun violence in our City,” Green wrote. “However, our city needs someone now with the passion and vision to lead us forward. Resign.”
At-large Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson said she agreed it might be time for Kenney to leave office if he couldn’t make a three-fold pledge: apologize for his comments, affirm whether he wants to spend another 18 months as mayor, and submit to City Council a plan to address gun violence and quality of life issues for the rest of his term.
Gun violence rose dramatically in many cities during the pandemic, and in Philadelphia, it has remained especially high. The city has recorded at least 1,176 shootings so far this year, up 4% from last year’s record-setting pace.
Overall, 267 people have been killed in homicides this year, according to the Philadelphia Police Department. That’s fewer than this time in 2021, a high water mark in recent history, but way above the 164 people killed by this time in 2019.
Philly’s Independence Day scare came less than a month after a high-profile shooting on a busy Saturday night on South Street that killed three and injured 11.
Glasgow, the violence intervention advocate, said reports of shootings in big crowds don’t surprise him like they used to. When he went out for Independence Day, he said, people felt on-edge.
“When you see a group of individuals gathering together, it’s supposed to be fun,” Glasgow said. “But in our city, you have that element of, what if?”
If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find grief support and resources here.
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