‘Come together as a community’
Take back streets: Neighbors organize anti-violence rally on Saturday afternoon Too close to home: Double shooting occurred just a few steps from pocket park
POTTSTOWN » Tealisha Paschall jumps at the sound of fireworks.
That’s because the bang dredges up memories of when she and a friend were shot in 1998 outside a party in Reading.
“Two guys were arguing and one shot at the other and missed, and then he just started firing into the crowd and I got hit in the arm,” she recalled. “I was in the hospital for 29 days and I had three surgeries.”
Added Paschall, “they said I would never have use of my arm again, but here I am.”
So it’s not hard to imagine Paschall’s distress — she suffers from post traumatic stress disorder — when more than 15 shots rang out near Chestnut and Washington streets July 5.
Two victims were struck in the hail of bullets, one reportedly just sitting on her porch near to the pocket park that was erected at Washington and Chestnut streets years ago in the wake of another act of violence.
So it’s appropriate that not only was that park the place where an anti-violence rally was held July 8, but that her new husband, Gilbert Butts, and his sister, the Rev. Jessica Scott, were the chief organizers.
“We’ve got to stand down from all this violence and stand up for this community,” Butts said.
“I posted something on Facebook after the shooting and everybody started saying we should do something,” he said.
“I am determined to do more after today,” said Scott, who owns Open Heart Care in Pottstown and Reading and is the pastor of Temple of Prayer on High Street.
“We have to come together as a community, see where we fell short, and get to the root of what we can do to make a difference,” Scott said.
“We have to step away from violence and bring love back into Pottstown,” she said.
Khadija Paschall was born and raised in Pottstown and is now raising her 7-year-old granddaughter Kaydence.
Pointing to one of a pair of women bringing coolers to the rally she said, “she’s a single mom raising three kids. She works two jobs, seven days a week and she’s robbing Peter to pay Paul. We need camps for her kids to go to in the summer, and grants to pay for them. We can’t just have them out on these streets.”
“This neighborhood has changed drastically — for the worse,” Paschall said. “The children are disrespectful, the drugs, the shootings. We need more police patrols and more things for the kids to do.”
“I have a friend who is an EMT and I hope he can come by today and tell people what’s it’s like, picking these bodies up off the street, telling people their son has just been shot, or killed,” Paschall said.
“We have to find a way to live with each other without violence, otherwise we’re doomed,” she said.
“Part of the problem is we have these young ladies bringing their boyfriends in from Philly and New York and they’re trying to take over Pottstown,” said Joyce Simmons. “Then everyone gets all caught up in it.”
Tony Henderson, a 2005 graduate of Pottstown High School, said “when I drive through town I don’t recognize anyone any more. We’ve got a lot of implants who aren’t from Pottstown.”
His high school classmate, Tony Betts, has owned The Blade’s Edge hair salon at the corner of Charlotte and Walnut streets for about 10 years.
“I love my home town, I want it to change for the better,” said Betts.
He was chatting with Athena Procsal, a Rupert Elementary School art teacher who lives in the neighborhood and brought her newborn son to Betts for his first haircut.
“Even in school, I get kids telling me I can’t tell them what to do,” she said, adding with a laugh, “and I tell them ‘it is literally my job to tell you what to do.’”
Her husband, Ryan Procsal, is the borough councilman for the First Ward, and he said although “it’s always good to see the neighborhood up to take back their community,” some attitudes have to change — particularly when it comes to working with police.
“I know of a circumstance when the police caught on camera, a guy who intentionally ran over another guy on a bike with his car,” Procsal said.
“When they approached the guy who was run over, he didn’t want to press charges,” he said. “That kind of thing has to change if we expect to get help from the police.”
Jessica Scott, left, pastor of Temple of Prayer, and her brother, Gilbert Butts, got together to organize the community rally at the Chestnut Street Park July 8 in the wake of a double shooting near there July 5.