Hours before chaos broke out, South Street wasn’t looking too hot. As I polished off a late Saturday afternoon can of Pabst at MaKo’s (it was the first day of spring, after all) my girlfriend suggested we get out of there. “Something doesn’t feel right,” she said. “Something’s going to happen here.” Hours later we’d be headed home, walking south on 6th Street, past two kids getting cuffed out front Bistro La Minette and a gigantic crowd getting rowdy just a few blocks west.
But we basically missed all the action. Frank DiCicco may be emitting a smug smile when he learns that this weekend, Philly teens again used Twitter and Facebook to mobilize a flash mob on South Street at 9 p.m. NBC 10 says parents alerted police about something going down after “seeing messages on their childrens’ mobile devices telling them to come to South Street.”
At 10 p.m., the Inquirer reported, teens were forced to disperse from South after cops used pepper spray and intimidation. The crowd then made its way to the clothespin at 15th and Market, encountering, according to one eyewitness’ report, 32 police cars.
Around 11, the crowd headed back to South Street. Many businesses had closed for the night because of the violence. A 27-year-old woman was attacked at 15th and South, brought to the ground by a group of teens. Several still-open businesses, today calling on Mayor Nutter to do something to quell the violence, fought off ransacking crowds. Police Capt. Michael Ryan says shots were fired around 13th and South at 11:30, though eyewitnesses say it was more like 11:15 (neither of these times could be confirmed) and three people were arrested for disorderly conduct and aggravated assault.
What’s going on with these kids? After the teenage riots on Feb. 16 and March 3 (though there have been six of these incidents since last May), 35 youngins were given trial dates by Judge Kevin Dougherty, who also gave them a piece of his mind, at one point asking a child’s parent, “If she doesn’t fear the police, who does she fear?” It’s a good question, one to which we don't yet have an answer. Coincidentally, those trials are scheduled to take place today and tomorrow.
CNET reports members of the Philadelphia City Council want to sue social networking sites they believe hosted organizing that led to dozens of teens rampaging through the downtown Macy's store this week. "Two members of Philadelphia's city council are considering legal action against Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace in the wake of a "flash mob" earlier this week that turned violent, according to a letter sent to the city's mayor and obtained by CNET. They claim that social-media sites don't do enough to keep tabs on violence that could be organized through their communication channels. No charges have been drawn up, in the letter the councilmembers ask the permission of Mayor Michael Nutter to "pursue the possibility" of a lawsuit. "It is disheartening; to say the least, that these youth so casually disrespected our residents, businesses, customers, visitors, and our police department," the letter dated Wednesday said. "While they certainly owe this city an apology and deserve to be punished under the fullest extent of the law, we believe that social media outlets should also bear some of the blame." The letter, written by council members Frank DiCicco and James F. Kenney, explains that this is the second such time a band of mischievous teens has formed via social media and went on to destroy property. "We believe that the lack of monitoring of these sites allows for mass, organized riots to occur.""
Mayor Nutter teased us this morning with his big 11:30 press conference concerning the flash mobs.
Philadelphians have a habit of advocating reactionary solutions to our problems. Out-of-control bike riders kill two pedestrians? Tax and fine all bikers! Pit bulls attack a couple people? Ban the breed! Black kids run wild on South Street? Lock the “savages” up and lose the key, fine their parents (most likely, their underemployed, single mother) and surveil them as they travel throughout SEPTA. Acts of violence are unacceptable and must be confronted, but we need to dial back the hysteria. By now we’ve all seen the ongoing coverage of the chaos on South Street and the three other incidents that have hit downtown since December, in the Gallery, on Market Street and on Chestnut Street. These sudden and unexpected gatherings of large numbers of mostly African-American teenagers have been dubbed flash mobs. Older folks know the phenomenon as “wildin’.” Whatever the name, these events are intense, dramatic, frequently erupt into violence and it’s clear nobody knows quite what to do about them. Worse, flash mobs aren’t the only source of violence by black youths that the city has had to confront in recent months. There’s the racial violence at South Philly High and the random “catchin’ rep” beatings in Southwest Philly. Complicating matters...
Hundreds of flash mobbers took to 30th Street Station yesterday. How delightful!