Although late, many people were strolling through the western hub of Center City, enjoying its blossoming restaurants, bars and clubs. ZIP code 19103 is as safe as anywhere in the city, which is the good news and the bad news.
The five friends, all white, had two drinks - no more than that - at the Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co., a basement bar little more than a block from Rittenhouse Square.
In addition to Billy, there were sisters Phyllis and Debbie, plus Stacy and Amy. None is a kid, none is stupid. "We were dressed up" for a night on the town, says Phyllis, who provided much of the narrative.
As the group approached Boyd's, one of four 20-something men playfully(?) smacked Stacy and Amy's rears. Amy shrugged it off, Stacy flipped out.
"Who the f - - - are you to touch me?" she shouted at the four men, casually but nicely dressed, as if they, too, had been out clubbing.
With Stacy and Assailant No. 1 yapping back and forth, Billy stepped up and confronted the men, demanding they show the women some respect.
One of the four, in a purple shirt, yelled at Billy, "You don't know who I am! I'm going to my car and make a phone call." That had to be the weirdest threat since Saddam Hussein promised the mother of all battles.
Just then a battle broke out on Chestnut, four on one. Cell- phones were whipped out, 9-1-1 calls were made and passers-by rushed over to stop the stomping Billy was getting.
Maybe a minute later everyone heard sirens and the four attackers took off like roaches when a kitchen light is switched on.
Phyllis praised the quick police response and how the cops scoured the neighborhood looking for the bums. Billy went to Hahnemann, was diagnosed with a possible concussion, released a few hours later.
All things considered, Billy's lucky because he could have been dead. There was no robbery attempt, and none of the attackers showed a gun or a knife.
Here in the psychology department at the Stu-niversity, it sounds like four guys with too much beer and too much testosterone engaging in macho bravado by touching women they didn't know.
Phyllis contacted me because she didn't want the assault swept under the rug. I got details from her and from police records. The other victims, as sometimes happens, clammed up. That's why I didn't use last names.
Cops are seeking the attackers and I believe are checking Boyd's security camera. I got little help from cops, who seem to regard simple assault as a yawner.
To the South Philadelphians, it was reality's unwelcome intrusion into a mild and starry night in Center City, perhaps America's safest city core.
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