All in all, Philadelphia's Fourth festivities "a resounding success"

Mayor Nutter introduces the Roots during the Philly 4th of July Jam near the Art Museum.
Mayor Nutter introduces the Roots during the Philly 4th of July Jam near the Art Museum. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 06, 2012

Mayor Nutter declared the city's Welcome America festivities "a resounding success" Thursday and told reporters that relatively few people were aware of gunshots fired on the periphery of the massive concert on the Parkway.

"I would suggest to you that 99 percent of the people at the concert had no idea this incident had taken place," Nutter said.

He praised the city's police as having made "incredible, well-coordinated emergency-response efforts" not only in dealing with the shooting, but in handling a simultaneous protest by the Occupy movement.

And he lauded the behavior of the half-million people who gathered for the Wednesday night concert.

Police reported nine arrests, including that of a Germantown youth, 16, accused of aggravated assault after shooting two teenagers in the leg near 17th Street and JFK Boulevard. There were seven other arrests for disorderly conduct, and one man was arrested for carrying a BB gun.

"I think by anyone's estimate or evaluation, that certainly demonstrates that the vast, vast, vast majority of people all came to the Parkway . . . just to have a good time, not to create disruption," the mayor said.

Police said the gunfire began shortly before 9:30 p.m., when Nafis Scott, 16, shot two teenagers near the busy intersection just blocks from the crowds gathered on the Parkway.

Police said Scott and the injured teenagers, ages 17 and 19, were involved in a dispute originating in their Germantown neighborhood.

Scott tried to run, but police caught up with him near 17th and Arch Street.

He was ordered to drop his weapon, but turned his gun toward a police officer, according to the mayor. At that point, an officer fired at Scott, grazing his chest with a bullet.

"This violence is, of course, unacceptable," Nutter told reporters at a Thursday news conference. "However, the Philadelphia Police Department responded immediately and effectively, and immediately placed the situation under control."

Scott and the other injured teenagers, whose names have not been released, were reported in stable condition Thursday. No police officers were injured.

Scott was charged with aggravated assault, assault on police, firearms violations, and related offenses.

The concert, staged at the top of the Parkway in front of the Art Museum, featured the Roots, Queen Latifah, Daryl Hall, Common, Joe Jonas, and two "surprise performers" - Lauryn Hill and Jonas' brother Nick.

Hill was booked weeks or months ago, according to City Representative Melanie Johnson, before her guilty plea last week to charges that she failed to file tax returns from 2005 to 2007, a period in which she earned more than $1.5 million.

"Welcome America always has surprise performers," Johnson said. Only three others in the city knew in advance of Hill's appearance - the mayor, Johnson's producer, and her 16-year-old goddaughter.

The concert began at 7 p.m. and ended with fireworks around 11 - making it a late night for children. Contractual agreements with broadcasters made it impossible to set off fireworks any earlier.

"Am I supposed to stop a concert in production that's broadcast live, not only locally, but Livestream around the world, do the fireworks, and then come back?" Johnson asked. "That doesn't work."

That's one reason, she said, the Welcome America festivities included an earlier fireworks program, about 9:15 p.m., Saturday on Penn's Landing.

Johnson said Wawa Inc., the primary sponsor of the Welcome America celebration the last three years, had agreed to continue in that role for three more. She estimated the company's financial commitment at roughly $3 million, a combination of cash and in-kind support, over the period.

The city's costs this year have not yet been tabulated, Johnson said. Asked for rough estimates of past city expenditures, she said they were about $600,000 a year, not counting overtime for police, sanitation workers, and other employees.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey declined to provide a figure on how many officers worked a July Fourth shift, but said it included every active member of the force who had not scheduled vacation.

"We canceled days off, put people on 12-hour shifts, and had people working in all the neighborhoods around the city," Ramsey said. "We felt very comfortable with the number of people we had."


Contact Bob Warner

at 215-854-5885 or warnerb@phillynews.com.

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