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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Eid celebration in West Philadelphia turns into nightmare with gunfire

Witnesses described a scene of panic as attendees ran for cover, seeking refuge in tents and trees to avoid being struck by bullets.

The joyous occasion of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, was shattered by violence in West Philadelphia’s Parkside neighborhood. What was supposed to be a celebration of faith and community turned into chaos as gunshots rang out at Clara Muhammad Square, leaving three injured and hundreds fleeing in fear.

Scene Unfolds

The annual Eid al-Fitr event, attended by around 1,000 people, was abruptly disrupted by a volley of gunfire. Witnesses described a scene of panic as attendees ran for cover, seeking refuge in tents and trees to avoid being struck by bullets. Among the injured were a 22-year-old shot in the stomach, a teenager wounded in the finger, and a 15-year-old hit in the leg and shoulder by a police officer. Despite the chaos, Commissioner Kevin J. Bethel commended the swift response of those who helped usher children to safety amidst the turmoil.

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Law Enforcement’s Response

Responding officers, initially occupied with writing parking tickets, rushed to the scene upon hearing the gunfire. Five individuals, including the injured 15-year-old, were arrested, and five firearms were recovered. However, the situation took a tragic turn when a police vehicle accidentally struck a 15-year-old girl, fracturing her leg.

Community’s Shock and Resilience

The Muslim community, gathered to celebrate Eid, was left reeling from the sacrilegious act of violence. Mayor Cherelle Parker condemned the incident, emphasizing every community’s right to worship in peace. Witnesses recalled the festive atmosphere abruptly giving way to terror, highlighting the resilience of a community striving for balance and light amidst darkness.

Witness Accounts

Attendees like Saul Landers recounted the stark transition from joy to fear, describing the friendly vibe of the celebration before the sudden eruption of gunfire. Zania Weatherford, caught amidst the chaos, reflected on the significance of Eid as a time for forgiveness and renewal, lamenting the desecration of a sacred occasion.

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City officials, including Council Member Jamie R. Gauthier, called for measures to prevent such tragedies, expressing disbelief at the presence of firearms at a religious celebration. Thomas Allen, a witness near the mosque, echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the unprecedented nature of violence encroaching upon sacred spaces.