Tatiana Larry, 18, is headed to college soon, and she planned to spend Friday night shopping for clothes on South Street with friends.
Larry, a graduate of the Math, Civics and Sciences charter school who will attend Spelman College in Atlanta on a basketball scholarship, said she did not know about the weekend curfew for minors until police stopped her and her 17-year-old friends shortly after 9 p.m.
The next thing Larry knew, her friends were sitting in the back of a police wagon.
"We're getting punished for what other kids are doing," said Larry, who plans to major in pre-med studies. "It's summer, it's nine o'clock, kids want to have fun."
Larry's friends were two of an estimated 50 juveniles police scooped up Friday on the first night of the 9 p.m. weekend curfew in parts of the city that Mayor Nutter announced last week in an effort to stamp out random attacks by youths.
No one was taken into custody in the first hours of the curfew Saturday night, as Nutter joined young people at a Kensington bowling alley and then made his way to LOVE Park about 10 p.m. to meet with Managing Director Rich Negrin for a walk through Center City. Since June, groups of primarily black youths have robbed and assaulted several people in Center City at random, causing injuries that ranged from cuts and bruises to a broken leg. The attacks brought international media attention to Philadelphia and outrage from residents and city officials.
Fed up, Nutter announced that after 9 p.m., minors must stay out of parts of Center City, West Philadelphia, and South Street. Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey flooded the areas with patrols and promised that youths who broke curfew would be taken to police stations and released to their parents.
The city was quiet much of Friday night, but about 12:40 a.m. Saturday, a 22-year-old man was mugged by a group of teens in West Philadelphia.
According to authorities, the man was walking near 47th and Walnut Streets when four boys ran up behind him. A 13-year-old punched the man, police said, then the rest circled him. Police saw the encounter and apprehended the youths, ranging in age from 13 to 15.
A Facebook and Twitter campaign launched by the Philadelphia Youth Commission spread word of its hastily arranged bowling tournament at Erie Lanes. It drew up to 300 young people in its first hour, Jordan Harris, executive director of the commission, said.
The event was the only one of its kind this weekend organized by city leaders, but it was expected to be a blueprint for many more through the end of the summer.
There was a reported stabbing of a female in the 1300 block of East Erie Avenue about the time the bowling event nearby was wrapping up, but authorities did not know if whether was related. An assistant manager at Erie Lanes said he knew of no such incident and that the gathering had been peaceful and upbeat. The stabbing victim was taken to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.
Ramsey said the curfew and police presence would continue for two weeks, then the department would reevaluate the situation.
For much of Friday night, there were police as far as the eye could see in Center City and on South Street, patrolling on foot, on bicycles, on horses, and in cars. Police wagons were everywhere, and South Street merchants displayed signs in store windows warning of the curfew.
Most of the teens taken into custody were caught on South Street, police said. Lt. Joseph Bologna, commander of the South Street police substation, said he told his officers to be respectful.
A 22-year veteran of the department, Bologna grew up going to South Street.
"Ninety-nine percent of the kids that come down here are good kids," he said. "A small percentage of kids are now ruining it for everyone. It's a shame."
Walking fast in the 700 block of South Street on Friday night, 17-year-old Destin Whitfield and his friend Ryan did not have much time to talk. They were rushing to buy sneakers, and they had only a half hour before the curfew took effect.
"It sucks," Whitfield said. "We're not flash-mobbers. We're just coming to shop."
"We understand the police got to do what they got to do with the kids running around hitting people," said Ryan, who lives in North Philadelphia. "But we're just chilling."
Center City was filled with teenagers Friday night, skateboarding in front of City Hall, sitting with friends, breakdancing in LOVE Park.
Emyral Johnson, 14, of Kensington, got off the train at 15th Street with her cousin in search of somewhere to eat. They knew the night would end at 9 p.m., and they did not like it.
Johnson said the mob attacks caused adults to think poorly of people her age.
"It's really stupid," said Johnson, who is set to begin her freshman year at Central High School. "If you're old enough to come downtown, you should be old enough to contain yourself. But people just feel like they got to be reckless."
Asked whether she knew people who participated in the attacks, Johnson said, "No one I know is so irrational."
As curfew time drew closer, youths began clearing out. Officers near the City Hall SEPTA station started asking for ID, and those who had none got a trip to a police station.
Some seemed stunned by what was happening. Waiting to be taken away, one boy watched two police horses nearby, then quietly used his cellphone to take a picture. Another underage boy police stopped hesitated to give officers his parents' phone number.
"You hate to push the issue sometimes," said an officer who asked not to be named. "Some of these kids, their parents don't even know where they are."
As another response to the attacks, hours at the city's largest recreation centers were extended until 10 p.m. on weekends in hopes that young people will seek out more wholesome activities there.
At the Vare Recreation Center at 26th and Morris Streets in South Philadelphia, police officers stood by Friday as a large crowd sat in the bleachers and watched a youth basketball league run the court in the final game of the season. There was a short line at the water-ice stand, and nearby, two girls flew back and forth on swings.
"It can be like this throughout the city," Recreation Commissioner Susan Slawson said. "Kids just need a place to come where there's activity, support, and it's safe."
On the mild summer night, there were mixed feelings about the curfew.
"It's dumb," said 15-year-old Latrelle Wilson, bouncing a basketball in a pickup game. "We don't really be nowhere, we're always here. Or we just chill and sit on the stoop. It's peaceful around here if you're from around here."
Others spoke of an ongoing rivalry between teens in the neighborhood and said a curfew might help.
"It sounds good to me," said Starr Linn, 20, who has two brothers ages 13 and 11. "You can't even sit outside without getting shot. Hopefully, it will get better soon."
Linn said she was usually in the house by 10 p.m. As for her younger brothers?
"My mom curfews them," she said. "When it gets dark, she makes them come in. She doesn't need the law."
Contact staff writer Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or [email protected].
Inquirer staff writer Maria Panaritis contributed to this article.
Copyright 2011 - The Philadelphia Inquirer