Sometimes we enjoy going through the old Daily News archives to see what has changed about the city -- as well as what has stayed the same. So we decided to see what was going on on this day 25 years ago...
Looks like then Mayor W. Wilson Goode was trying to put the city back together after a massive Center City melee on Easter Sunday. Sound familiar?
Note: Our friends at Philebrity previously posted on this 1985 event back in February. We were unaware that they had written about the event. For further reading, check out their post here.
Here's the full story:
Tuesday, Apr 09, 1985 CITY EYES CHANGES ON CHESTNUT ST.
By CAROLYN ACKER and STEVEN A. MARQUEZ, Daily News Staff Writers (Staff writers Gene Seymour, Leon Taylor, David Holmberg, Edward Moran and Kevin Haney contributed to this report.)
The business hours of movie theaters and arcades on the Chestnut Street Transitway might have to be regulated to prevent another incident like the Easter Sunday outbreak of looting and vandalism, Mayor Goode said yesterday.
Goode said at a press conference that he would meet with Chestnut Street and city business leaders today to discuss "what kind of standards we can establish on the arcades as well as the movie theaters themselves. "
"I think if we're going to have a sound retail district, that we cannot continue to have three theaters and two arcades within that two-block area," Goode said of Chestnut Street between 15th and 17th, where most of Sunday's looting occurred. "We'll continue to have problems if we have that. "
There were numerous theories about what caused the Easter melee, which lasted about two hours and involved as many as 5,000 teen-agers and young adults.
Some said it was simply the result of too many exuberant youths in too little space. Others pointed to video arcades, or the movie theaters, or inadequate police protection, or the mall-like transitway, or kung fu.
Goode also raised a new theory - hormones.
"Now and then there are some kinds of chemistry that go to work inside of young people's bodies that contribute to something like this," he said. "I'm not here to stand and explain why that happened, but it did in fact happen yesterday."
The disturbance drew national media attention, but it in no way rivaled the riots that shook big cities in the 1960s. Only five businesses sustained major losses, and Chestnut Street's most venerable and expensive boutiques, jewelers and department stores went untouched.
Four adults and 10 juveniles were arrested, police said, and a police officer and four juveniles were treated for minor injuries.
The disturbance started about 4 p.m. and was under control by about 6 p.m., as mounted police and officers with K-9 dogs forced the crowds to disperse. Chestnut Street was closed to traffic until 8 p.m., and its theaters and arcades were closed for the night.
The looting was concentrated in the four blocks between Broad and 18th streets, although a clothing store near 11th Street was also hit.
Goode yesterday estimated total damage and losses at around $25,000. "It could be more," he added.
It was the second Easter in a row that disorder briefly ruled the transitway. Easter is a day when Center City is packed with young people who traditionally flock there to display their finery.
Police yesterday released no further information on what caused the disruption, but it has been traced to the Duke and Duchess movie theater on Chestnut near 16th, where a long line of youths was waiting to see "The Last Dragon," a martial-arts film.
"Apparently they come out and all want to be kung fu masters," Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor said Sunday.
Patrons were leaving a second movie playing at the twin theater, "Friday the 13th Part V," at about 4 p.m., when the disturbance began.
An official for Sameric, the movie theater chain that owns the Duke and Duchess, disputed Sambor's theory that "The Last Dragon" touched off the disorder.
"This film has been playing for two weeks and we've had no trouble until yesterday," said the spokesman, who would not allow his name to be published.
"The film itself is rated PG-13 (parental guidance suggested for children under 13). This is no R-rated violent karate film," said the Sameric spokesman. "It's got rock music, it's got dancing, it's got comedy. You might call it a black 'Karate Kid. ' This is not a violent Chuck Norris (a star of martial arts-type films) movie. "
The Sameric spokesman said there were no incidents inside the theater, where about 500 patrons were watching the sold-out 2:55 p.m. show, but that people outside were attempting to push their way into a line of moviegoers who were waiting to buy tickets for the next show, scheduled to start at 4:50 p.m.
Moviegoers leaving the theater joined the crowd outside and made the situation more dangerous, the spokesman added. "Our manager called the police and said it was looking very precarious. "
One glass door to the theater was broken, but there was no other damage, the Sameric official said.
Four teams of workers from the Crisis Intervention Network, a group that works to forestall neighborhood violence, helped police persuade the youths to disperse.
There was no direct gang involvement in the violence, said Larry Rawles, deputy director of the network, although crisis workers recognized some gang members in the crowds.
"I don't think the majority of kids were looking for trouble," Rawles added. "They were going to the movies, or to the arcades, looking for a way to spend a Sunday afternoon. "
The fact that only a few stores were damaged on Chestnut Street, even though an estimated 5,000 people were on the street, showed that most of the youths were not there to riot, Rawles said.
Rawles said he believes some youths took advantage of the situation to loot stores that sold popular youth-oriented items such as sneakers, designer eyeglasses and flashy clothing.
The hardest-hit store was The Athlete's Foot, a sports equipment store at 1509 Chestnut St. Owner Al DiPierro estimated that he lost at least $14,000 worth of merchandise, including running suits and sneakers. Yesterday, the Athlete's Foot had a "closed" sign on its locked door, next to a boarded-up front window.
Merchants and shoppers on Chestnut Street wondered if the street would be permanently hurt by Sunday's disorder. Some said large crowds of young people are encouraged to loiter by the lack of traffic in the daytime - when the transitway is closed to all vehicles except buses - combined with the arcades and movies.
Unruly young people are nothing new to Sharon Fisher, an employee of the Zounds arcade on Chestnut near 15th, who keeps a large stick handy under the counter where she sells hot dogs.
"(They're) wild Friday, Saturday, and Sunday," Fisher, 32, said. "It's not as bad as Easter Sunday, but we have people coming in here, robbing and picking pockets. Close your eyes and it's gone. "
Last Easter, groups of youths roamed Chestnut Street, grabbing gold chains and designer eyeglasses off the heads and necks of surprised passers-by, but there was no major property damage.
"Every year it gets a little worse," said an employee of Space Port, an arcade on Chestnut near 15th. "But there was never looting before, just fighting and maybe a shooting or two. "
Many of the seven movie theaters on Chestnut Street, especially those on the transitway east of 18th Street, show horror or slapstick comedy movies that attract youthful audiences.
Long lines of young moviegoers waiting to buy tickets contribute to the problem, said Rawles of the Crisis Intervention Network.
"The reality is 'What are kids going to do?' " added Rawles, noting that the closings of neighborhood movie houses has forced more youths to go downtown for entertainment. "Are we really going to stop kids from going to movies? "
The Sameric spokesman said yesterday that the chain increases security in its theaters during holidays such as Easter. An official of the Budco theater chain yesterday would not comment on what security measures that company took. Goode said yesterday that he wants city officials to meet with the owners of Chestnut Street businesses to discuss scheduling movies so they do not all let out at the same time, and regulating the hours of arcades.
The arcade hours are "too long," Goode said, declining to be more specific. "There may be some situations where we may be able to have those hours a lot shorter than they are now. "
Goode conceded that the city's image has suffered "some damage" from the disturbance. He indicated, however, that the damage was limited by "the fact that (the rampage) was dealt with and controlled very quickly. The Police Department was definitely in control of the whole situation from the beginning they arrived until the end. "
Several merchants said police protection on Chestnut Street has declined in recent years.
"Sometimes you can see a policeman on foot constantly," said the manager of an established Chestnut Street store. "But I've been in situations in the early evening when you can walk down Chestnut Street and be accosted by all sorts of young kids and there won't be a policeman in sight. "
Mike Lutz, a police officer and vice president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, said that the department about a year ago eliminated a squad that would have been available for crowd control. The squad, known as a bus detail, consisted of 20 to 40 officers who were bused to areas where they were needed. "You need them for this type of thing," Lutz said.