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Specter of Violence Casts Shadows Over Local Football Traditions

High school football has been a tradition in the Delaware Valley for decades. But recent safety concerns for players, coaches, and fans have cast a shadow over football enthusiasm.

On the opening night of the 2022 season on August 26, the game between neighbors Upper Darby and host Bonner Prendergast was terminated with 10:51 remaining in the fourth quarter following an incident in the stands.

Spectators rushed onto the field after a rumor spread through the crowd that a weapon had been displayed or discharged in the stands. But no weapon was found and no shots were fired.

Upper Darby School District Superintendent Dr. Daniel McGarry issued a statement the following afternoon that read in part: “We know that last evening was very traumatic for all involved. The district will be providing resources and support for the students who need to speak with someone at each of our schools on Monday.  Our focus right now is on making sure that we provide our students and staff with the support(s) they need.”

He thanked the members of the football, team, coaching staff, cheerleaders, and administrators for their efforts to get spectators to safety.

McGarry told WTAF-TV, “Even though we know that there wasn’t actually a shooting that happened, it was still a pretty scary moment for students and family members.”

“We’re blessed here in Upper Darby Township,” he said. “We have a great police chief in Tim Bernhardt who stayed in contact (through the weekend following the game). They’re still doing an investigation. They don’t know everything that occurred at this point in time. There was speculation that there was a fight that occurred somewhere in the crowd. We don’t know all the details.”

In hopes of preventing similar incidents, Upper Darby’s home football games are now kicking off at 5 p.m. rather than the customary 7 p.m.

The Upper Darby-Bonner Prendergast game was not the only one to be interrupted by a disturbance. The game between host Cheltenham and traditional rival Abington was halted late in the 4th quarter (Abington won 26-8) following a series of altercations in the stands that required the intercession of the Cheltenham Township Police Department.

Those events happened a year after an incident at another football game in Delaware County led to the death of an 8-year-old girl. Fanta Bility of Sharon Hill was fatally shot outside Academy Park High School football stadium on August 27, 2021, following a game between Academy Park and Pennsbury.

Bility died from shots fired by Sharon Hill police officers while three other people were wounded. The borough terminated the three officers involved in the shooting, Devon Smith, Sean Dolan, and Brian Devaney, who all face 12 counts each of voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless endangerment.

Chris Shelly has been football coach at Springfield Township in Montgomery County for 16 seasons. A graduate of the school who played both football and baseball, he has close ties to the community.

“It seems like this world has gone haywire and upside down the last three or four years,” he said “I can’t explain it.”

Shelly said he appreciated the support he receives from the administration at Springfield and from the community at large. “When (incidents) happen anywhere I just feel very fortunate I think to be in our community,” he said. “The stuff that happens, I’m really not smart enough to explain why that stuff goes down. I really don’t know why.

“It’s really sad all around, but I think you have enough good people who love football in the community that they’re going to the right things to get the right kind of environment.”

Chas Cathers is athletic director at Hatboro-Horsham High School. Asked if the atmosphere surrounding high school football has changed throughout his career, he said the fears are generally overblown.

“I think like everything you see ups and downs,” Cathers said. “I wouldn’t say that it’s changed much. I think the 24 schools in Suburban One [sports league], the administrators, the principals the superintendents, they all do a fantastic job of making sure they’re prepared when they host big events so I really am fortunate enough that I haven’t experienced much of a change.”

Cathers says one key is for game staff at an event to be visible and interact with those attending that event.

“They’re visible, they’re interacting with our community and our spectators,” he said. “Everybody knows that we may see different events that happen at a game, but we’re all on the same page with what the protocol is in the event that we have an incident and how we’re going to handle it.

“It takes a long time but again everybody has been really great and on board with making sure we’re on the same page. So that we can run events safely and everybody feels welcome and safe when they come to sporting events.”

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GIORDANO: Krasner Is the Sam Hinkie of Crime Fighting

The best news from last week clearly was that San Francisco voters, among the most liberal citizens in America, overwhelmingly voted to recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin. They rejected his progressive policies that created spikes in murders and property crimes. The success of the anti-Boudin effort appears to have energized those close to meeting the signature requirements needed to get Los Angeles District George Gascon on a ballot for recall as well.

While all this was happening to these two George Soros-backed district attorneys in California, here in Philadelphia we have our own story. Gun violence on South Street has garnered international attention and raised troubling questions for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

It was very clear that Kenney was under fire, returning to Philadelphia from a national conference in Reno, then hiding from the press. Outlaw was under fire because it is believed by many observers that she is curtailing the police from enforcing quality of life laws that underpin any semblance of a civilized city under rule of law.

Krasner was the only one of the big three who was not on the defensive. Krasner shares the same abysmal record on crime as the Soros-backed district attorneys in California. However, as I have discussed with both Seth Williams, his predecessor as district attorney, and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Krasner has some tactics that even they can’t match.

First, Krasner reminds me a lot of Sam Hinkie, the former general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers who essentially fielded teams that would lose a lot and consistently gain high draft picks. It was called The Process. The result of that embarrassing experiment is Joel Embiid and a string of flawed draft picks. Embiid can’t get through the regular season and playoffs without being hobbled by a major injury. Yet, there are still many sports fans in Philadelphia who loved that because it is different, and it was a big idea.

Krasner sells the same potion as Hinkie. He constantly talks about his dismantling of a racist system of justice, his attacks on the police, his grants to questionable community groups, and his record of exonerating people in prison he and his staff have deemed innocent. He uses the media effectively to publicly celebrate the people that Larry has “brought home.”

Williams joined me on my radio show to discuss public claims that Krasner has rigged this exoneration project. Williams was very proud of the fact that he established the First Conviction Integrity Unit in the history of Pennsylvania. He talked about his early years as a beginning prosecutor being mentored by Black lawyers who were very aware of trying make the system of justice fair for all. I could tell how angry he was at Krasner for his attacks on him and the lawyers he knew.

Krasner will continue to bludgeon everyone else and is now prepping for the crown jewel of his efforts to satisfy his supporters by being what Nutter called him: ‘The Great White Hope.’

On June 29, the next hearing on the fate of Mumia Abu Jamal happens in Philadelphia. Maureen Faulkner, the widow of police officer Daniel Faulkner who was murdered by Mumia, believes Krasner is in the tank for progressive extremists and wants to get Mumia released from prison.

I share that belief.

The bottom line is Krasner will continue his destructive path until the local media challenge his record. Since we don’t have a recall mechanism, it would be up to Republicans in Harrisburg to show some political coverage and move for impeachment hearings on Krasner.

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FELDMAN: ‘It’ Can Happen Here…And Already Is

Any allusion by Jews in America that “it” can’t happen here should evaporate as quickly as the rain from a mid-day desert thunderstorm.

The “it” of course refers to conditions deteriorating so badly here that life for Jews in this country would be untenable. It has already become uncomfortable for many who are fearful of wearing garb that identifies them as Jewish, or walking to and from synagogue.

The latest attack on a Jewish institution and Jews: A Muslim terrorist stormed into Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, near Ft. Worth, and took the rabbi and three congregants hostage to wrest the release from prison of Muslim terrorist Aafia Siddiqui (a k a “Lady al-Qaeda”) this past Shabbat. Thanks to G-d’s grace and the work of local, state and federal law enforcement, none of the hostages suffered physical harm.

Yes, the Jewish People continue to be the prey of choice by a spectrum of attackers.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker credited a recent security workshop for the well-being of the hostages – he said training made it possible for him and congregants to know when and how to escape their captor. It is unclear whether or not a security guard had been on the premises at the time of the attack, or whether or not that would have made a difference.

Attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions in America have increased dramatically in recent years and especially in 2021. The meteoric rise of violence and other physical attacks coincides with increased rhetorical attacks against Jews in academia, in the media, among some government officials and on social media. Most of these attacks have been directed at the world’s largest and world’s oldest Jewish community: The Jewish state of Israel.

Past taboos about attacking Jews in public have evaporated.

All of the verbal attacks are based on outright lies and distortions to advance what is portrayed as the “Palestinian” cause, as well as eternal stereotypes against Jews. Nearly all are part and parcel of the generations-old Arab and Muslim war against the Jewish People.

What happened to Jews in Europe time and time again did not begin with the murders of tens of thousands and then millions. Each began with the combination of lies about and dehumanization of Jewish People at an institutional level including by academia, media and government.

Accusing someone of being racist or of oppressing others, or claiming they commit “apartheid” or are “colonizers” are some of the most damaging charges that one can make against an individual, a People or a nation. Today there is a steady stream – one repeated ad infinitum – of such false accusations against the Jewish People and the Jewish state. Academia, media and some in government are again the chief disseminators.

No, we are not now on the precipice, though we must raise awareness and call for a concerted effort by all who are decent to retard the attacks on Jewry immediately before more are terrorized and attacked and our civil liberties are further damaged.

A few years ago and earlier, American Jews were shocked to witness or learn about the level of security necessitated at synagogues, Jewish schools and community centers in Europe to safeguard the premises and those inside. It was unimaginable that American Jewry would have to install bollards around the perimeters of its buildings, hire armed guards, have 24/7 security cameras and locked doors, and resemble “Fort Knox.” But today in the United States, it is rare that a Jewish institution does not have at least one of these features – and many have all of them.

How awful. This is not normative and must not be accepted as “the new normal.”

Why is it that such persecution of the Jewish People in America is permissible? Why is it that to advance their cause, others can lie about, demonize and dehumanize the Jewish People for exercising their rights to self-determination as well as their self-defense? When did academia, media and some government officials abandon standards of facts, accuracy and balance to instead further an agenda that has as its goal inflicting a cataclysm on the Jewish People, who have been persecuted and annihilated from time immemorial?

Until deterrence is restored, there must be a heavy price to pay for lying about Jews and inciting Jew-hatred.

Let’s be clear at least here: The goal of the predominant attacks against the Jewish People today is to destroy the Jewish state of Israel; to destroy the largest Jewish community in the world today; to destroy the place that is central to Judaism.

The lies and demonization go far beyond criticism of a government and its actions; they go far beyond taking issue with the need for there to be a nation-state for the Jews. The attack against the Jewish state of Israel, and the attacks against the Jewish People throughout all of time are meant to strike a final blow against a singular People.

The attack against Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville will likely be looked upon as a singular event in this era of fleeting attention spans and denial of Jew-hatred. Some have ridiculously and outrageously claimed that the attack had nothing to do with Jews at all! But there is a bigger picture taking shape here and this attack is one tile in a larger mosaic. By speaking out now and taking action now, we can prevent the picture from becoming an ugly monstrosity. All people of good will must do so. Surely, history will be the judge of what we did and what we failed to do.

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