Armstrong: Stop trying to make Temple attacks about race

Temple officials have promised to beef up security after a recent attack involving teens.

THE TEMPLE attacks were about troublemaking teens - not race.

The youngsters who jumped those college students as they walked to campus Friday night are delinquents who need to be put in check before it's too late.

They were nothing but miscreants who took out their aggression and misdirected rage on random passersby. Why? Because they felt like wilding out that night. They were out to create chaos, so they did.

So, don't talk to me about gentrification in North Philly.

Don't talk to me about poverty.

Don't talk to me about race relations.

Those are whole other conversations and not what these attacks were about.

No one was safe from these teens that night. Not the six Temple students who were injured. Not the Temple police officer knocked from her bicycle by a 15-year-old. Not even a police horse. Anyone could have gotten caught up in that madness.

According to news reports, a crowd of 150 youngsters started gathering after an Instagram advertised an 8 p.m. meet-up at the AMC North Broad Street 7 (formerly the Pearl Theater at Avenue North), on Broad Street near Oxford at the southern end of the campus.

It was a beautiful fall evening, and according to Temple's student newspaper, word of the meet-up spread through social media, telling people to gather at the AMC 7 to see Ouija: Origin of Evil at 6:45 p.m.

Most of the high schoolers who responded to the online posting were good kids looking to socialize. But then the delinquents did what they often do and ruined it for everybody.

According to police, a group of 20 to 30 boys and girls in their early to late teens randomly attacked Temple students as they returned from a football game at Lincoln Financial Field.

They surrounded the students and punched, kicked and robbed them, in some cases knocking them to the ground. According to police reports, "an 18-year-old female complainant sustained scrapes and cuts to her legs, her cellphone was smashed and left on the ground, and her debit card was taken out of her purse." Two 19-year-old students were attacked and robbed of their possessions - an iPhone, a wallet, a gray backpack and a Bluetooth wireless speaker.

As mounted officers attempted to disperse the raucous crowd, a 16-year-old boy cruelly punched a horse's face not once but twice. What kind of a jerk hits a horse? He fled but was apprehended and charged with assault. In another incident, an officer was knocked from her bicycle while chasing a kid who'd been throwing rocks. That youngster also was arrested. Around the same time, another group of Temple students was attacked and robbed.

Altogether, six Temple students and two campus police officers were injured.

People keep trying to make this a racial thing because at least two of the victims were white and all of the assailants were African American. They make that assumption even though we don't know the race of the other injured students. (Lots of African Americans go to Temple.) Nor do we know the race of the injured officers.

Street violence is street violence. It knows no skin color. I went to a historically black university in a largely black city, and the students there were frequently targeted by neighborhood youngsters, too. I used to work late nights at the student newspaper, and even though I couldn't afford it, I'd take taxis to avoid getting mugged on the way home. African Americans are as afraid of getting robbed as everybody else.

No one wants to get a call like the one Joe Lauletta, 50, of Holland, Bucks County, received from his daughter, Christina, who was badly injured in the melee.

"These sick animals held her down and kicked and stomped on her repeatedly. Thank God, the people from the pizza place intervened," Lauletta wrote. "Every part of her body is badly bruised, it makes me cry just thinking about it. No broken bones. If you have children at Temple, tell them to be careful."

Another student, a junior environmental science major who didn't give her name, told a website called theTab.com, "My boyfriend ran and got away but the second I tried to run, they grabbed me by my hair and started beating my head and back.

"I remember shoes coming for my face and after that I heard other kids from the group saying, 'Yo chill, yo chill, it's just a girl,' and they pulled my attackers off me."

Philadelphia police arrested four juveniles and said Wednesday that "it appears that all arrests have been made."

Temple has promised increased security, but when it comes to random street violence, anything can happen to anyone - black or white.

@JeniceArmstrong

Blog: ph.ly/HeyJen

armstrj@phillynews.com