His voice choked with emotion, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner gave a forceful apology Monday for asserting last week that the city was not in the throes of a violent crime crisis despite record numbers of homicides and shootings.
Krasner’s initial remarks drew swift condemnation that made national news as critics accused him of downplaying rising gun crime that is disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities.
Krasner, surrounded by supporters including City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, members of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity and community leaders, on Monday said he chose the wrong words to characterize the city’s crime problem, and for that he was sorry.
“I did not acknowledge the pain and the hurt that people feel in the city of Philadelphia,” he said at Love Zion Baptist Church in North Philadelphia.
“My words unintentionally hurt people,” he said. “It was never what I wanted to do. It’s not the work we do every day. It’s not the work we will do the rest of today. But I know those words were the wrong ones. I chose them. They came out of my mouth. This is on me. I accept responsibility for that, I own that, because I failed in not acknowledging that pain and suffering.”
Monday’s news conference was billed as a discussion on the recent spate of gunpoint robberies in Center City, including carjackings, but its focus quickly shifted to Krasner’s earlier comments on crime, as speaker after speaker conceded that he misspoke but praised him as a district attorney who has worked tirelessly to prosecute criminals and exonerate the wrongly accused.
Gauthier, whose West Philadelphia district has been hard hit by gun violence, said she had no doubt that Krasner was sincere in his apology. “I think the true mark of a person is not just what they say, but what they do,” she said. “And I believe in our district attorney’s action. As my community has suffered greatly over the past few years due to a dramatic spike in gun violence, he has been right there with us helping people to get justice.”
Krasner has been lambasted by critics, including former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Republican elected officials, and community activists who said his Dec. 6 comments minimized the city’s unprecedented spike in homicides and shootings and were insensitive to communities most affected by crime.
“We don’t have a crisis of lawlessness, we don’t have a crisis of crime, we don’t have a crisis of violence,” the district attorney said when a reporter asked whether tourists be concerned for their safety when visiting the city.
In a blistering op-ed article published in The Inquirer, Nutter said: “Krasner should publicly apologize to the 521 families of dead victims and the thousands of those maimed by gun wounds this year. He has ignored the pain of the living and insulted the memory of the dead.”
Krasner later issued a statement saying his words were “inarticulate” and acknowledging that he had offended people. He suggested that some of his remarks had been “edited down to sound bites,” but said that it was nonetheless his responsibility to speak carefully. “It is my obligation to do better,” he said.
But the criticism did not abate and the controversy threatened to overshadow Krasner’s progressive agenda. On Monday, the district attorney went a step further by offering a full apology at a news conference, surrounded by supporters who were invited to speak.
Among them was former State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, who worked in the victim/witnesses services unit under Krasner. Johnson-Harrell, who lost two sons to gun violence and is the founder of CHARLES Foundation, which provides services to victims of violence, acknowledged Krasner’s misstep, but praised his work as the city’s top prosecutor.
“DA Krasner has apologized to victims privately and publicly, and he understands he made a mistake,” said Johnson-Harrell, who pleaded guilty in 2020 to stealing from a nonprofit she established to help people struggling with mental illness, addiction and homelessness. “But we must not forget the facts, that DA Krasner has been on the front lines standing with victims — Black and brown victims.”
Paula Peebles, of the National Action Network, said Krasner has provided access to Black leaders like no other district attorney in her memory. “We’ve tried to work with DAs in the past. The doors have always been shut. So we’re looking forward to the next four years in working with DA Larry Krasner,” she said.
Krasner, who last week noted that while gun violence was on the rise, other violent crimes were not, nevertheless acknowledged that gun violence was a concern: “I said then and I will say again, we have a truly terrible crisis of gun violence.”
As of Dec. 12, homicides — most committed with guns — were up 12%: to 528 victims compared to from 470 at the same time last year.
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