Philadelphia police and residents join together for National Night Out

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Marvin Ebron and son MJ speak to a police officer

Marvin Ebron and son MJ speak to a police officer at National Night Out rally about how to make the community safer. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

The city of Philadelphia hosted hundreds at Tuesday’s National Night Out, with police and residents coming together with the goal of curbing crime.

Two of the more notable events occurred in Parkside and North Philadelphia.

The Parkside rally took place in a shopping center at 50th and Parkside that was vandalized during last summer’s unrest following the murder of George Floyd.

Just over a year later, the supermarket was rebuilt and people gathered in the parking lot of the adjacent Lowes store with Drexel University offering COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, while a DJ played music and back-to-school clothes were made available for free to those who needed them.

Chief Inspector Altovise Love-Craighead of the police department community relations bureau said that, because people joined together after the vandalism to rebuild, the center lives again.

“Businesses, public officials, residents,” Love-Craighead said, “When they come together to protect and support what belongs to them, when they feel they have a stake in what belongs to them this is what can happen, it’s powerful.”

Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal was also in attendance at the Parkside rally. She said the no snitching rule must end for violence to diminish in the city.

“The no-snitch rule is made up by criminals, so if you are a law-abiding citizen you shouldn’t abide by that law,” Bilal said. “Criminals make it up for criminals, not for people who do good, who want to see cities safe, who want to see their streets safe. Criminals don’t abide by that rule, so if you see something, say something.”

Sheriff Rochelle Bilal speaks at a National Night Out event
Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal speaks at National Night Out rally in North Philadelphia. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)
Dancers at the National Night Out party
Dancers at the National Night Out party. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

At the Parkside rally, Mayor Jim Kenney aimed to articulate what he called only “positive thoughts” when questioned about the violence that has put the city on a record-setting pace for homicides.

“We had a couple of good weekends in the past two weekends, not good weekends because we still lost people,” Kenney said. “We are working every day and every way we can to reduce this problem.”

At another rally attended by the mayor and about 100 others at the Zion Baptist Church at Broad and Venango, Kyle Bedley spoke about how he would handle the ongoing violence.

“It would be like China, get rid of all the guns, first of all, that way nobody could shoot anybody.  I know that’s a big thing in America to do but that’s what I would do to start with.”

Civilian use of firearms is completely banned in China.

The mayor added Philadelphia isn’t the only city dealing with increased violence. “It’s partly pandemic, it’s partly the availability of guns,” Kenney said.

In speaking to reporters, Kenney was blunt. “I’d ask you to go to the state legislature and ask them why we can’t control guns in our community without them trying to interfere with it.”

The state of Pennsylvania has curbed cities to enact their own gun regulations. Philadelphia has taken that matter to court, as it wants to enact stronger rules than the rest of the state, which it has been given permission to in other instances, since it is considered a city of the first class, the only one of its kind in Pennsylvania.

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