A standing room crowd listens to deputy police commissioner Myron Patterson.

A standing room crowd listens to deputy police commissioner Myron Patterson.

Mark Dent/Billy Penn

Anthony Williams’ West Philly meeting draws crowd that condemns violence, supports Islam

“This issue of ISIS,” said the state Senator — joined by DA Seth Williams, Congressman Chaka Fattah, Council members and candidates — “is not about 60th Street.”

The community meeting set to address problems of violence near 60th Street began with a prayer from an Imam and a reverend. Then State Sen. Anthony Williams invited his “friends, Christian and Muslim” to participate.

“This issue of ISIS,” he said, “is not about 60th Street.”

Even before last week’s shooting of officer Jesse Hartnett, the stretch in West Philadelphia faced problems. The Daily News reported yesterday the area saw 13 shootings and 12 robberies in the last six months.

For an hour and a half Thursday night, members of the community got an earful about those problems, the need to properly represent Islam and more. Here are four of the biggest storylines from a meeting that veered in many directions.

Hundreds of people in Cobbs Creek are concerned with the violence

Last night’s meeting was standing room only, with at least 200 people in attendance. More than a dozen stood in line to ask questions during a Q&A session — so many that not everyone got their opportunity. Though the subject was supposed to center on last week’s shooting, most people expressed concern about the neighborhood as a whole.

Williams began the meeting by referencing the Daily News report, “as if that was a surprise to any of us.” He continued, “People of Cobbs Creek have dignity, and we don’t every day live in fear. It may not be the richest, but we live in pride.”

Concerns ranged from strained community-police relations to safety of the elderly and a general climate of violence that had nothing to do with last week’s shooting.

Many people at the meeting suggested that politicians, police and media lacked awareness of these problems. That changed Thursday night. Deputy commissioner Myron Patterson was there, as were countless politicians and all the city’s television networks.

“I think they were reassured that so many people were paying attention,” said Mustafa Rashed, who grew up in the neighborhood and works as president/CEO of Bellevue Strategies, “but I also think some of them were concerned at what it took for them to pay attention.”

West Philly residents don’t see Islam as the issue

Islam was not a concern of anyone who spoke at the meeting. One man, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Salim, said Philadelphia is the most Muslim-friendly city in the country.

Salim told Billy Penn after the meeting he might not have made his appeal had all the TV cameras not been there. He wanted to get as much good publicity as he could for Islam, a religion he sees as more prominent than many realize in Philadelphia: “It’s known in the Islamic community that almost everyone has someone in their family who’s Muslim.”

Most of the concern related to Islam was about making sure Philadelphia showed a united front in its support of the religion. Asim Abdur-Rashid, Imam of Masjid Mujahideen, where Edward Archer attended, said, “I can tell you from the Islamic community we have no knowledge of (links to terrorism) whatsoever and stand with the community.”

Tons of politicians made an appearance

Even Chaka Fattah, whose congressional district doesn’t even include the 60th Street corridor (it ends in West Philly at 57th and 59th streets). He mentioned this before he started talking.

Williams hosted the event, and City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell had second billing. State Rep. Joanna McClinton spoke at the beginning to say she heard the gunshots from the shooting of Hartnett last week. Seth Williams showed up right as the meeting started. He got a few words in.

The oddest political moment of the night happened during the Q&A. A woman asking a question announced she was a candidate for the 190th district state representative seat and asked whether the Mayor’s engagement office could help with some of the issues on 60th Street. Blackwell didn’t take too much time to answer the question, essentially saying she and other city politicians could be contacted online or by telephone.

Fattah arrived near the middle of the meeting and sat on the front row of the stage next to Abdur-Rashid. He promised better federal funding to help solve some of the problems and stressed that “all lives matter.”

MOVE got brought up

One person who was supposed to ask a question instead went on a long tangent, asking police and politicians where they were incidents like the Brandon Tate-Brown shooting, “police terrorism,” and even the MOVE bombing. It solicited a few sighs from the audience while he was speaking but a round of applause when it ended.

Williams was quick to respond: “Where was I? I was six blocks away on Osage Avenue when it was bombed.”  

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