People snapping selfies, grabbing slices at Lorenzo’s Pizza, a man singing loudly while slowly coasting down the street on his skateboard, a woman eating water ice and carrying a Chihuahua dressed in a bedazzled pink coat.
All in all it was a lovely June night on South Street, although hardly a typical one. The beefed-up police presence was evident, with officers on foot and bikes. Barriers blocked off South Street from Front to Fifth.
Darren Watson took it all in from his spot on the sidewalk on South Street — noticing the tourists and the teenagers, but also the extra police and aluminum barriers erected on both sides of the street.
“It’s a little traumatic, a little nerve-racking,” said Watson, observing the scene from a South Street sidewalk. “Some people are going on like nothing happened,” said Watson, who works in security and was heading to work at a concert at the TLA. “It feels eerie.”
A week after a mass shooting erupted on one of Philadelphia’s most popular and colorful commercial corridors, there was the usual weekend revelry, even though the crowds were a little lighter. But there were also thoughts of last weekend, when three people were killed and 11 were wounded in the single biggest shooting incident in the city in seven years.
» READ MORE: How the South Street shootings unfolded
The violence broke out at about 11:30 last Saturday, when a disagreement among three men led to shots fired. Killed were Gregory “Japan” Jackson, 34; Alexis Quinn, 24; and Kristopher Minners, 22.
Four people have been arrested in connection with the violence: Quran Garner, 18; Rashaan Vereen, 34; Qaadir Dukes-Hill, 18; and Nahjee Whittington, 17.
Watson, who owns Born 2 Protect LLC, a private security and gun-safety training company, spent part of his week giving training sessions around the city, teaching people how to stop the bleeding from gunshot wounds, using tourniquets or gauze to potentially save lives.
He wasn’t afraid Saturday night, said Watson, 34, of West Philadelphia, but he felt more “alert. I’m definitely paying attention to body language, attitudes.”
An entrepreneur known as “Conflict” made his way up and down the street selling pepper spray and Tasers, urging revelers to “protect your queens and princesses.” Conflict and his brother, Fareed Evans, had sold their wares on South Street and elsewhere in the city prior to the mass shooting, but it felt important to be there Saturday night, they said.
“I love Philly even though they got all this nonsense going on,” Conflict said. “But we’ve got to protect ourselves. At the end of the day, it’s our community; the law enforcement can only do so much. They’re not from around here.”
Evans watched the conflict unfold last week, standing at Fourth and South. He heard gunshots and saw dozens of people running. He shrugged when asked if he felt unnerved to be back on South Street.
“This is South Street, but people shooting in the hood every day,” said Evans, 20. “It’s sad, but it’s normal.”
Destyny Brooks was well aware of what happened on South Street, but determined to enjoy her Saturday afternoon anyway. Brooks, 22, lives in Cheltenham and frequents South Street. She grabbed an Ishkabibble’s cheesesteak and a water ice and carried her diminutive dog, Lilia, under her arm, people-watching.
Brooks “felt horrible, it was so sad what happened,” she said, but “I’m just going to keep on living my life, living every day like it’s my last.”
Foot traffic was a little less than usual in the early evening, said Vince Volz, who books musicians. But he was hopeful that others took the same attitude as Brooks. He smiled as a large group of people hopped off a 15-person pedal bike and entered Dobbs, making a beeline for the bar.
“I’m smiling now — come on in,” said Volz.
Inside, Andrea Amoia held a drink and said she was delighted to be exactly where she was.
“South Street is an icon, it will always be an icon,” said Amoia, 49, a pediatrician from Hatboro. “My husband and I would come here on dates in the ’90s. We won’t let this scare us — we don’t want to be afraid to come into the city.”