Are The Philadelphia Police Secretly At War With All Black Youth, Or Is The City Really This Close To Rioting Every Weekend?

When we arrived at the TLA on Saturday night for the Femi Kuti concert (amazing, btw — somebody book this guy for Welcome America next year, please), it was impossible not to notice how there were nearly as many cops as people. All kinds of cops, too — mounted police, a full brigade of cops on motorcycles, state troopers, the usual bike cops, hell, even Chief Ramsey himself was stationed at 4th and South — and after a quick poll, we’d mutually decided that this must have been some kind of preemptive strike for what we were guessing was that annual object of civic dread, the Greek Picnic. One problem: The Greek Picnic didn’t really happen this year — but its shitty ghost remained, and the cops were there on Saturday night to fight that ghost. Eventually, later that night, some fights broke out, and the police were handily able to justify their presence there. But it got us to thinking: What kind of crazy temperature is the City running these days that this kind of buildup and conflict occurs when nothing is happening at all? And then that, of course, threw us back to something we were saying during the whole flash mob craze: Could so much of this be happening because these kids feel like Center City is somehow not for them, and that the only way they believe they can experience it is like this, en masse in a borderline riot state? And when did it become the police’s job to scrub Center City of black youth on the weekends? We know they’re there to protect and serve, of course, but on the news the next night, when we saw the SEPTA busses that had been rolled in to take all of these kids back home, we got a very unpleasant feeling indeed.

  • Rob N

    Cops on South
    make my purchase
    of dildo so safe.

  • barryg

    The city and the merchants don’t want crowds of 20,000 kids that start fights taking the place of more mature people that actually spend money. Look past the race issue and at the money.

    It makes sense to me, unless you want to see a vibrant commercial corridor turned into a run down shell. Smart move getting the mounties in there.

  • BeeDonso

    The kids in this city are a fucking disgrace! All these teens causing trouble should be locked up for a week like animals with hard criminals. “Scared Straight” style.

  • tips

    Barry, South Street already IS a run down shell. And that’s not the fault of the kids. It’s the fault of greedy landlords and chain store dollars that no longer exist.

  • Nate

    Agree with @tips. I’m pretty young and even I can remember a bunch of stores I used to go to on South 5-10 years ago that are almost all gone. And 5-10 years ago was in no way South Street’s heyday obviously. The only reason I ever go there now is Repo.

  • liamface

    I think roving kids fighting each other would only improve what is already the least interesting part of the area. Surely all that activity might make them hungry or thirsty enough to check out what is often the most dismal dining selections possible.

  • http://www.secretpants.net Trigg

    At least Gilly Jeans is still there. I would just *die* if I couldn’t have my urban-western wear.

  • http://djrobertdrake.com DJRobertDrake

    @liamface … i feel like I need to take your point to task; As a longtime resident of South Street, I have to laugh when people toss out the ‘nowhere to eat’ line. Right now we have about 90 restaurants of virtually all types throughout the district. There are diners and delis; eat in, take home and takeout; bar stools, romantic settings and sidewalk cafes, carnivore and vegan, casual and fine dining. There is American, Thai, Moroccan, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Irish and Japanese, and that is just on the 600 block of South 2nd Street – so feel free to slam the Street for what it no longer is, but trust me; there are tons of places to eat in my ‘hood. – the selection is FAR from dismal.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/seratide dx

    i can’t help but think that all of the folks saying “won’t someone think of the children? they don’t feel as though they belong!” might feel just a bit differently about the matter if those 20,000 underage-drinking, fistfighting youths suddenly showed up in their neighborhood unannounced and proceeded to intimidate the shit out of everyone.

    you almost had me thinking that i’m just getting old and projecting the hellraising of my own youth onto these teenage swarms unjustly. and then i remembered watching the pileup/fistfight in the parking lot out front of my house from my living room window.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/seratide dx

    i would also like to second Mr. Drake’s assertion that this neighborhood has some totally amazing food. for example:

    the hot and sour soup at Golden Empress.
    ANYTHING at Southwark.
    the kabob place on 5th and Passyunk.
    absolutely everything at The Latest Dish.
    our bagel place is pretty decent.
    Famous Fourth Street Deli.
    falafel sandwiches at Alyans.
    La Fourno has a totally awesome bread made of chickpea flour.
    Horizons. nuff said.
    Bistrot La Minette / Beau Monde.
    Hoof + Fin on third is turning out to be awesome.
    South St Souvlaki is no Kanella, but its decent.
    Tamarind will not blow your mind but is very decent thai food.
    Fez is an awesome place to take a small group for WAY TOO MUCH food and built-in entertainment.

    i could keep going. the point is, just because McDonalds went under doesn’t mean you can’t find anything to eat here now.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/seratide dx

    actually, one more because I love the food and can’t believe I left them out: Las Bugambilias, right beside the South Street Diner (which is open 24/7 again, by the way) is my favorite mexican place in the city.

  • barryg

    I was afraid my comment would spark off a debate about the viability of South St as a commercial corridor. Besides what was already mentioned, let’s not forget about the part between Broad and 6th Sts, which is relevant since these kids seem to surface from the subway.

    Whole Foods, Super Fresh, Supper, Percy Street, Brauhaus Schmitz, that knitting store, Via Bicycle, Chapterhouse, and lots of nice, high value homes are within a couple blocks. South St may not be punk rock anymore, but it is an active commercial and residential district whether you like it or not. To throw that away in the name of some liberal fantasy about inner-city teenagers in short sighted, to be kind about it.

  • BovineJoni

    until this Friday, I hadn’t seen any of these ‘mobs’ or ‘gangs’ that i keep reading about.

    but friday night at about 11:30PM I found myself walking in Center City, with a group of about 75 – 100 youths coming my way around the corner.

    there is something universally unsettling about
    1. a large group
    2. a loud group
    3. a large loud group that is (inexplicably) slapping, punching, kicking, and jumping at one another.

    I guess I can’t blame the cop for driving the wrong way up a one way street to follow them, and then pursuing once they shouted “OH SHIT THE COPS! LETS GET OUTTA HERE!”

  • emmkay

    I think there seems to be a real disconnect between the landlords and the goal of not having marauding teens on South Street. If you replace The Book Trader with Net, don’t be surprised when you attract customers who like urban streetwear instead of quirky books.

  • emmkay

    A quick walk through Old City on a First Friday (but only on First Friday) should be enough to demonstrate what’s needed on South Street. Packed with people, interesting art, independent music… where’s South Street’s Second Saturday?

  • barryg

    emmkay, they don’t come there to shop. Net has been on South St for a very long time, way before the flash mob trend. Try again.

  • gillianhc

    in general i agree with you about the trumped-up/oldhead/fear-based hysteria towards the idea of kids “mobbing”. saturday night at 11, though, when i left work at 9th and bainbridge…there was menace in the air and for once i was glad the cops were standing at every corner in compass formation. used to live on south 7 odd years ago and the greek picnic was always something very different from the usual obnoxious weekend vibe. maybe it was the ancestor of that, maybe it was the humid summer night fuck-or-fight pheromones, but it felt a little like the seeing the weird green sky before a tornado: something’s coming, take cover!

  • http://djrobertdrake.com DJRobertDrake

    @emmkay — actually, the district does a Fourth Friday event; a mix of art/music/food events – which originated with the just the businesses on 4th street and this year has branched out to fold in South Street proper… you can probably find more at southstreet.com

  • Adam

    you guys should have a Dockers meet up/flash mob and show those urban teens whats up. Maybe after a Bodeans concert at the TLA or something