Two Philadelphia summer events canceled as gun violence escalates

A Philadelphia police cruiser is parked between Arch and Market streets in West Philadelphia

A Philadelphia police cruiser is parked between Arch and Market streets in West Philadelphia on April 2, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Two community summer events in Philadelphia have been canceled because of escalating gun violence in the city.

West Philadelphia’s largest business association has called off its West Fest Block Party that was scheduled for this Saturday, July 16, due to a surge of violence in the neighborhood.

The event was meant to reunite the Cobbs Creek community after several summers disrupted by the pandemic.

The West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative, which represents 2,000 businesses, wrote in a letter to its members that the group made the decision to cancel the event following three violent incidents in the area: a shooting at the Sayre Recreation Center, where the event was to take place, a stabbing a few doors down from the recreation center, and a shooting at a funeral procession on 63rd and Spruce streets.

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The Collaborative’s President Jabari Jones told WHYY that it was a difficult but necessary decision.

“It was a very heart wrenching decision to cancel them,” he said. “But we ultimately believe that we’ve made the right choice here, given the safety issues that we’re seeing in [the area],” he said.

“With the issues that are happening in that area, as well as throughout the city, I just didn’t have faith that we would be able to keep people safe at the event.”

He called it “disgusting and unacceptable” that the violence has escalated to the point that residents can’t safely attend events.

“It’s very unfortunate that the safety issues in the city have gotten so bad that you can’t have events,” Jones said. “And it’s unfortunate, too, that you have people that are trapped in their homes pretty much and are afraid to go out every day because of the overarching gun violence in the city.”

Several residents told WHYY’s news partner 6abc that they were disappointed by the decision.

“When you cancel stuff like that, positive stuff, you’re letting them win,” said Darrin McNair of Cobbs Creek. “You’re letting the idiots shooting these guns, you’re letting them win. This is how you stop them. You show kids there’s another way. Give them a couple hot dogs, a little party and they’ll see, ‘Oh there are some good things going on in life. I don’t have to use a gun.'”

City Councilmember Cindy Bass on Wednesday announced that her office has also pulled the plug on the city’s annual Summer Event Series. The event, which was supposed to run through Aug. 31, attracts thousands of people for free food, live entertainment, and kids’ activities

In a letter, Bass wrote the decision was not made lightly.

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“Your safety is my number one priority and given the current climate, my office is looking into bringing you alternative community events that may be a more suitable replacement for the Summer Event Series,” she wrote.

“I will continue to work with our city’s police department as well as fellow legislators, churches, and anti-violence organizations to try to resolve the gun violence issues that plague our district.”

A longtime vocal critic of the city’s response to crime, Jones called on city leaders to take greater responsibility to curb violence in the city, and argues there has been a lack of urgency on their part.

“This is an emergency that is costing people their lives every single day. And it’s like, where’s the leadership in the city that’s saying, ‘Hey, let’s stop. We got to start solving problems here?’” he said.

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