Temple University is vowing to work more with police to prevent further incidents like the attacks on students last weekend that made international news.
President Richard Englert sent a message to the Temple community Tuesday night noting that the attacks were “unsettling” and promising to work “diligently” with the city and local law enforcement to protect students. He also said Temple is one of the safest schools in the region.
But while police said the attacks came after an Instagram post coordinating a “meet-up,” no clear motive was reported for why some the gathering of 150 to 200 Philly teenagers ended with at least six students assaulted, one Temple cop attacked and one Philly police horse punched in the face. Four teens were arrested.
One source familiar with the attacks said the FBI is investigating the incidents for possible evidence of a hate crime. The FBI declined to comment.
“They were definitely targeting Temple students,” said Mike K., owner of Pizano’s Pizzeria on Oxford Street off Broad.
Mike himself saw teenagers attacking a group of students outside his pizza shop on Friday night and ran out to break up the fight, bringing the students inside his shop. (One of those students was the daughter of Metro US Circulation Director Joe Lauletta, who was hurt on Friday).
He accused Temple of being more interested in trying to protect their reputation than their students.
“They’re gonna say it’s under control. It’s not,” he said. “These parents could sue Temple for not having enough security. Penn and Drexel don’t have these kind of problems.”
Don Williams, a local barber, said that youths in the neighborhood are getting increasingly rowdy, but that he doesn’t think anyone was targeted specifically.
“The question is, ‘What are they on?’” he said, noting that he heard some kids were on drugs like K2, the potent synthetic marijuana which is actually legal in Pennsylvania.
“They just want some place to go. When there’s too many of them, somebody wants to show off,” he said. “So they start a ruckus.”
Williams doesn’t think Temple students were specifically targeted.
“I don’t think it’s any particular group. It’s just anyone they can attack,” he said. “I bet you half of that group wasn’t there for anything like that.”
Charles Cannon, a Temple alumnus who still lives in the area, said he was on Broad Street and walked through a crowd of about 100 youths around 8 p.m. with his girlfriend.
“Nothing happened to us, nobody harassed us. Later when I got home, I saw the news articles. It was a bit surprising,” he said. “When I was there it didn’t look like a flash mob. It looked like a bunch of people waiting for a movie to start.”
The only tension he was aware of was that his friend heard some Temple students yelling “All lives matter” at the teens.
“I guess they thought it was a Black Lives Matter protest? … That might have created some hostility,” he said.
In general, Cannon said, there is a definite tension between the impoverished communities of North Philly just outside campus andthe college students within.
“I think Temple needs to foster more of a community,” he said. “When they’re talking to students, I think there needs to be more education that they are guests in a community. That might help the tensions, if students are more respectful of the neighborhood and the people that live there.”