Shootings mar Parkway celebration

This was the chaotic scene about 10 p.m. Wednesday on the Ben Franklin Parkway between 16th and 17th streets after three teens were shot near 17th and JFK Boulevard. JULIE SHAW / DAILY NEWS STAFF
This was the chaotic scene about 10 p.m. Wednesday on the Ben Franklin Parkway between 16th and 17th streets after three teens were shot near 17th and JFK Boulevard. JULIE SHAW / DAILY NEWS STAFF
Posted: July 05, 2012

THE FOURTH of July went out with a bang in Philadelphia on Wednesday night — and that meant both gunshots and fireworks amid the annual Welcome America festivities.

Chaos erupted around the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Center City after a 17-year-old youth and a 19-year-old man were each shot in the leg about 9:20 p.m. during a dispute. Soon afterward, as police were chasing the alleged shooter — a 16-year-old boy — he pulled out a gun and pointed it at cops, prompting an officer to shoot him near 17th Street and JFK Boulevard, police said.

To add to the chaotic scene late Wednesday, a mass of sweaty, angry Occupy National Gathering protesters were making their way up Arch Street, chanting and pumping their fists, when reports of chaos amid the festivities on the Parkway began to spread.

Hundreds of people swarmed the Parkway and surrounding streets, with cops on foot, in vehicles and on bikes, and some streets closed off. Lt. Marty Best, of the 9th Police District, standing at 17th Street and JFK Boulevard, said afterward, "It is a little crazy. You have so much going on. You have a lot of different people. People throwing firecrackers, the traffic. You have the volume of people in general. You have groups of people running. By the time we sort it out, it's all a little bit draining."

Best said a man — later said to be the 17-year-old — was shot in the leg near 17th Street and JFK, then ran toward 16th Street and the Parkway, where police found him. "The doer was seen running from the scene," from 17th onto JFK, Best said.

Police later said that a 19-year-old also had been shot in the leg at 17th and JFK by the 16-year-old.

Standing on the Parkway about 9:45, Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan said the alleged shooter had "pulled a gun on police" so "police shot him." Best said the man shot by police suffered a graze wound to the chest.

The 16-year-old and 17-year-old were being treated at Hahnemann University Hospital. The 19-year-old was taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

All three were in stable condition about midnight. They were not immediately identified.

No cops were injured.

At 10 p.m., as a sea of Welcome America attendees flowed along the Parkway near 17th, cops huddled around two men who had been arrested and were in a police van. One was then transferred to a second police van. It was not immediately clear why they were taken into custody, and a police spokeswoman said she did not know.

Robert Robbins, 55, a sanitation worker with the Streets Department, did not see the shootings but pointed in both directions on the Parkway and said: "Everybody started running this way, that way."

"It was pandemonium," said a 51-year-old man who did not want to give his name. He said one of the men arrested by police on the Parkway was "slammed" onto the ground. "They were on him like flies," he said of the cops. "I think it escalated when he was resisting. That makes [police] overreact. … The young man must have done something wrong for them to do that."

Meanwhile, hundreds of Occupy protesters marching into the area were just getting word of the violence. Some wrote it off as fireworks, but for others, news that gunshots had been fired at the Welcome America show just fueled their anger.

"This is why it's called Killadelphia!" a young, bearded man wearing an "Unarmed Civilian" shirt yelled at cops on Arch near 12th.

The scene late Wednesday brought to mind last year's Welcome America festivities, when a stampede erupted on the Parkway after reports of shots being fired. The following day, police confirmed that they'd received calls about shots fired just before 11 p.m., but cops investigating last year's incident found no evidence that a shooting had occurred.

Wednesday night's shootings were quite real, police confirmed.

The shootings were preceded by a planned Occupy protest.

At 8 p.m., dozens of Philadelphia cops, on foot and on bicycles, converged around Franklin Square as the Occupy National Gathering finished dinner and prepared for its final march of the week. Around the corner near 7th and Race, officers in full riot gear sat in SEPTA buses, their shields piled high in the back windows.

An hour later, hundreds of Occupy protesters hit the streets, waving flags and chanting songs in masks and sweat-soaked shirts.

"One-two-three-four. We declare a class war," the crowd chanted along 6th Street.

About 9:30, the crowd turned onto Arch Street, walking several blocks before police said they could not march en masse on the Parkway, where the gunshots had been reported just minutes earlier.

"This group has women and children in it here, and we can't jeopardize them," a police official surveying the march said on Arch Street. No problems had been reported with the march by 10 p.m., but Occupy members were reporting at least one arrest 30 minutes later as the group was stalled out at 15th and Market.

For the most part, attendees said, the National Gathering was a success. "It's an impressive turnout, but I expected more," said Goldie, 44, a member of Occupy Guitarmy, who will march to New York later this week.

Mary Hath-Spokane, 65, had taken a Greyhound bus to Philly from Olympia, Wash., to get signatures on her "Declaration of Liberty." She loved the message, but not the humidity.

"I just don't know how I'm getting back," she said.

Earlier, protesters at Franklin Square took part in something that was as American as free speech and the Fourth of July — baseball.

The teams were named the Tax Dodgers and the 99%ers, and the "game" was more of an exercise in sketch comedy than baseball, but it was also a tribute to something that is at the heart of Occupy — and of America: the pursuit of happiness.

"We use humor because it keeps people entertained, and when people are entertained, they're listening and will take what we talked about and tell it to others," said Athena Soules, 33, of Brooklyn, one of the authors of the sketch.

On July Fourth in Philadelphia, protesters took advantage of their First Amendment right to free speech in Franklin Square, where the Occupy National Gathering marked its fifth day, and at Independence Mall, where protesters from a second group, the 99% Declaration, marched after holding what they called a "Continental Congress 2.0" for three days at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

In contrast to the arrests of 26 Occupy protesters on Sunday for disorderly conduct and obstructing roadways, there were no notable run-ins between the protesters and police on Wednesday.

Even retired Philadelphia Police Capt. Ray Lewis, who became one of the national faces of the Occupy movement when he refused to stop wearing his old police uniform to protests despite objections from Philly police, said things ran smoothly. Lewis, who had a small part in the baseball sketch, posed for photos with other protesters and said he was proud to be with Occupy in Philadelphia on Independence Day.

"This is the date of freedom, and this city defines freedom," Lewis said. "And this movement, to many of us, epitomizes freedom from corporate rule."

Colin Magness, 25, of Philadelphia, brought a television to watch the show outside at Franklin Square on Wednesday.

It was just the frame of a big screen, made of cardboard with a giant, gaping hole where the picture should have been. The TV was mounted to a platform on wheels, and Magness' living-room sofa was nailed to the platform in front of the TV.

Magness and his friends sat on the couch and watched whatever came in front of the screen. When they turned it one way, they got the baseball game featuring the Tax Dodgers, when it was turned another way, they got an uneventful episode of "Cops," featuring the Philly police who stood quietly on the sidelines.  

"I wanted to see the Occupy movement on TV because they always told me the revolution wouldn't be televised," Magness said.

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