Several scuffles and other criminal incidents broke out last night at a gathering of hundreds of area residents lining 40th Street between and Locust and Walnut streets. University and Philadelphia Police were called to the block several times last night, starting in the early evening. Over the course of the night, a University student was assaulted, police broke up several fights and also shut down some businesses in the area. The violence came as hundreds of local youths gathered at the block in what is an annual Easter tradition of "hanging out" there. The tradition has led to incidents in the area before, but most said that this year's turnout was the largest and most violent. "I've been here for three years and never had it this way. This is something that has gotten worse," said Galaxy II manager Thomas Edwards, who had to close his arcade early. "I've never seen that many people on that street." During the day, the street had been filled with families walking on their way to church or just out for a stroll. But the scene at night quickly got out of control, with people running and yelling, and police cars everywhere. According to University Police Lieutenant Susan Holmes, a University student, whose name was not released, was standing outside his residence on the 4000 block of Locust Street at about 8:21 p.m. when he was punched in the eye by an unknown assailant. Police described the assailant as a 6 foot, 3 inch black male of medium build in his early twenties and wearing a brown leather jacket and red sweatpants. The student reported the incident to University Police, who were already on the scene. The police looked for the assailant, but he had disappeared into the crowd, Holmes said. With the aid of the student, the police later located the group he was with, but the assailant was not with them. Reports of the night's events from witnesses on 40th Street varied, but most observers said there were several altercations. According to an 18th District Philadelphia police officer, there was at least one other minor fight. Eyewitness Desmond Michaels, who said he saw this incident from in front of the Eric 3 On Campus movie theater, said a fight broke out between two black men, adding that the police came and broke it up after about 20 minutes. West Philadelphia resident Atif Oberlton said he saw a fight and called Philadelphia Police from the public telephone on the corner of 40th and Walnut streets. Oberlton and others said police arrived within five to 10 minutes. In addition to the fights, Philadelphia Police shut down the Galaxy II arcade for the night and the McDonald's restaurant at 40th and Walnut streets for about an hour at 10 p.m. "The manager [ of Galaxy II] just lost control [of the store]," 18th District Sergeant Steven Gwiazdowski said. Both Philadelphia and University police said they have special details assigned to the area for Easter. According to 18th District Police Officer Mary Connell, Philadelphia Police had a patrol in front of the AMC Walnut Mall Theater on 40th Street for crowd control once the scuffles broke out. Gwiazdowski and others attributed much of the problem in the area to overcrowding at the movie theaters. "It happens every Easter," Gwiazdowski said. "All the kids go to the movies. There have been a number of fights tonight." But Gary Langford, an usher at the theater and a student at Philadelphia Community College, denied there had been any overcrowding problems, but said that the gatherings are an annual event. "It's Easter, it happens every year. People go to the movies, they go out to show off their new clothes," Langford said. "Most people in this area go here [40th and Walnut] to hang out. We had no problem with overcrowding."Comments powered by Disqus
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