A First-Person Account of a SEPTA Brawl

Around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning I ran from my home in Havertown to get to the outbound R100 at Penfield, due at 1:42. I arrived at the station at 1:40 and the train came on time.

Fatigued from the run, I nod to a guy in the second row if it’s cool to sit next to him. He nods. I am glad I don’t have to go to the back to sit because of my legs and lungs. Besides, people are yelling in the middle of the train.

The yelling gets louder and angrier after I sit down, but I ignore it for a while and shut my eyes. When the yelling gets too loud to ignore, I open my eyes and see that everyone in my area has their eyes glued to whatever is going on behind me. A group of five or six women and a man are yelling at another man, in a Red Vest, who is yelling back with equal fervor.

This continues for however long until a man standing in the front yells and moves toward the middle to retrieve Red Vest, I guess because he knows him. That man tries to pull Red Vest away while at the same time yelling to the man or men allied with the women to, “Get off at Bryn Mawr,” because that is where he will kick their ass: an open invitation. There is some light shoving from both sides.

At this point the train has stopped for good, at Ardmore Junction station. A few middle-aged working people have moved to the front of the train, where the driver assures them the cops are coming, and I move near the door as well, in case I need to leave. The rest of the train leans away from the argument in the middle; some people move to get a good vantage point so they can shoot the affair on their smartphone. I meet the gaze of a somber businessman, who shakes his head once. I look down.

Bryn Mawr tries to get Red Vest off the train, because everyone knows and is saying the cops are on their way. Red Vest exits and enters the train multiple times, passing right by me when he does. Each time, I look down. He re-enters over and over to continue the verbal barrage, until he re-enters the last time to get physical, tackling whichever woman was in the front of her group. The crowd goes ooh like when a good tackle happens in football. Somehow the force of Red Vest’s impact has caused her pants to slide down a little. Her friends, female in the front and at least one male in the back, fight back with slaps, waterproof jackets wielded as whips. Bryn Mawr enters to assist Red Vest, get him out of there. Red Vest leaves for good, Bryn Mawr and everyone else involved following.

The remaining passengers are all lined up on the north-facing window, looking out at the parking lot where the two parties are continuing to argue. I look out and see Red Vest fighting another man in the street, everyone else watching.

“N—-s is going to jail,” says a man in a Black Beanie. This whole time he has been keeping it light for the bystanders.

A cop comes up Haverford Road from the east, scattering the group outside. Another cop, lights on, can be seen in the window reflection, coming from the south. I hear later that Red Vest tried to run and they subdued him, but I do not see this as it happens.

Everyone but Red Vest gets back on the train. A cop comes on and asks what is happening. One of the women says it all started when Red Vest tried to sit on one of her friends, either as a come-on or because he wanted her seat. She is yelling and the cop asks her to lower her voice. She did not want to be sit on and told him as much, he did not take that well and that is how the argument started. She says Bryn Mawr is Red Vest’s friend.

“Everyone who was involved, get off the train,” the cop says.

Some people go like kids go when a classmate has to go to the principal’s office. Ooooo. Uh-oh. Two women follow the cop off the train.

A bystander in a Love Pink sweatshirt says “What the f—?” to no one. Bryn Mawr says that Red Vest gets like that when he’s drunk. Love Pink asks, “You know him?” Bryn Mawr says yeah, and that Red Vest is on parole. Then Bryn Mawr turns to the group of people he just faced, trying to tell them that Red Vest gets like that when he’s drunk.

“It’s all you, you know it.” He is conceding that his friend was out of line. Still, “Come to Bryn Mawr.” The invitation is still open.

A cop gets on and asks Bryn Mawr why he is yelling. Bryn Mawr says he isn’t, he’s chill.

“Yeah, you need to chill.”

Bryn Mawr nods, but once the cop exits the train he back to telling the people to get off at Bryn Mawr, whispering this time. Love Pink and another person tell him he needs to sit down. The cop comes back on and tells Bryn Mawr to get off the train. The train waits another minute or two before moving again. During that time, Black Beanie is talking and laughing with the guy I sat next to at first. He says that even if the cops can’t pin any assault charges on Red Vest, he still violated parole by running.

“He gon’ be sittin’ for a minute,” he says. “Because he can’t take rejection. Now he gon’ be where no women at.” They laugh at the irony of it all.

The train gets to the Villanova station and I get off. Way in the back a large group of people gets up to leave as well, probably freshmen. They look shaken.

By Marciano Lopez

If you were on this train and have any other information regarding this incident, please email mlopez07@villanova.edu or vutimes@villanova.edu or both.

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