Block party de­fies sum­mer’s vi­o­lence

Com­mu­nity gath­ers for food, mu­sic at fo­cal point of sev­eral shoot­ings

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Jen­nifer Shee­han

Sit­ting on a bench Sun­day in Al­len­town’s Stevens Park, Michael Fras­setto talked about grow­ing up in the city and how his fam­ily still lives just blocks away from the park.

It’s a neigh­bor­hood that’s seen its share of vi­o­lence this sum­mer. Early Satur­day, an 18year-old man was shot just around the cor­ner — the city’s 28th shoot­ing vic­tim since June 1.

“We are all here be­cause the vi­o­lence has been go­ing on for too long,” Fras­setto said. “It’s sad and un­nec­es­sary.”

About 250 peo­ple gath­ered at the park Sun­day for a #StoptheVi­o­lence Block Party, a way to show com­mu­nity unity in the face of a vi­o­lent sum­mer.

Fras­setto was one of the or­ga­niz­ers of the event, which fea­tured live mu­sic, cold drinks, grilled food and more for any­one who wanted to stop by.

The event was the lat­est ef­fort by com­mu­nity mem­bers to

speak out against the vi­o­lence in their neigh­bor­hoods. Late last month, about 300 frus­trated res­i­dents and of­fi­cials took to the streets for the Walk for Life, which was or­ga­nized by Prom­ise Neigh­bor­hoods of the Le­high Val­ley.

Gun vi­o­lence has plagued the city this sum­mer. In the most vi­o­lent episode, 10 peo­ple were wounded June 20 when three gun­men opened fire on peo­ple leav­ing the Deja Vu night­club on Hamil­ton Street. The night­club shoot­ers re­main at large. Po­lice have made few ar­rests in the other shoot­ings.

The most re­cent shoot­ing — which hap­pened just af­ter 4 a.m. Satur­day on the 600 block of Park Street — was on the same block in which a 25-year-old man was wounded June 29 and around the cor­ner from where a bul­let was shot through a win­dow on North Sixth Street on June 15. It oc­curred less than two blocks from where Lau­ren Gon­za­lez, 33, was shot and killed July 12.

“Vi­o­lence has be­come nor­mal­ized in Al­len­town,” Fras­setto said. “It didn’t used to be this way. There was a time when ev­ery­one knew each other and cared about each other. It all starts with the re­la­tion­ships be­tween neigh­bors. With­out that, noth­ing gets bet­ter.”

Fras­setto is a former teacher who in 2016 was in­volved in stu­dent walk­outs in Al­len­town School Dis­trict over what he said then was a lack of sup­port for mi­nor­ity stu­dents. He was later found guilty of three out of 417 sum­mary counts of cor­rup­tion of youth the dis­trict filed against him, and was or­dered to pay $300.

Today he leads a non­profit, Al­len­town Mu­sic Scene, that’s fo­cused on giv­ing lo­cal young artists a plat­form. It was one of sev­eral groups at the block party Sun­day.

As mu­sic thumped, chil­dren played on play­ground equip­ment and teens zipped by on bikes. Adults of all ages watched the ac­tiv­ity, not mind­ing the heat of the af­ter­noon. Brightly col­ored bal­loons were tied to the gate sur­round­ing the park.

“We are all con­nected,” said Richard Lovell, who said he was a vic­tim of gun vi­o­lence in 2014. “I want the kids to see this unity.”

Bring­ing the com­mu­nity to­gether was a goal of the event.

“Our com­mu­ni­ties are at their strong­est when the gen­er­a­tions are con­nected,” Fras­setto said. “We can all come to­gether.”

Morn­ing Call fea­tures re­porter Jen­nifer Shee­han can be reached at 610-820-6628 or jen­nifer.shee­[email protected]

PHO­TOS BY JANE THERESE/SPE­CIAL TO THE MORN­ING CALL

Danielle Dor­fis and Charles Myers, of Al­len­town, dance dur­ing an anti-vi­o­lence event Sun­day at Stevens Park in Al­len­town. The Stop the Vi­o­lence block party fea­tured food and mu­sic, at­tract­ing sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple through­out the day.

Bik­ers show off their tal­ents dur­ing the the Stop the Vi­o­lence block party in Al­len­town.

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