Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and London


Riot and civil commotion in the age of technology were referred to as the peril of Flash Mobs of marauding teenagers. The disturbances, the surprise disturbances, when warning signs long have been there. It was the story of the weekend in London, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

From Chicago to St. Louis, in Cleveland, in Los Angeles and the District of Columbia, in Milwaukee and Philadelphia, numerous metropolitan areas have been confronted in the summer of 2011 by violent flash mobs. The mayor of Philadelphia addressed the issue from the pulpit where he worships. After the July 29th random beatings in Center City, Mayor Michael Nutter said, “When [people] see that kind of behavior and activity, it is in fact damaging to all African Americans and all Philadelphians. That’s why I said what I said.”

Creation of gangs was a sign of major discontent, and I had lost track of how many generations that American urban areas were dealing with gang wars. Did not the movie “Westside Story” address the issue, in the 1960s? It was the second summer of flash mobs in Philadelphia. In Milwaukee, it was the second month of the same flash mob like incidents of race-related violence. Mob attacks occurred with the opening of the Wisconsin State Fair after a similar episode at Riverwest, with racially motivated beatings in July when seventy-five to one hundred black youths disturbed traffic crossed a bridge into the Riverwest neighborhood where two gas stations were robbed. And police were called to a disturbance at a Summerfest hip-hop show.

All of the signs perceived to be a black problem– black kids killing black kids, gang bangers– largely unheeded by wider society. About largely men who have given up all hope and possibly absolute belief. Young people with no stake any more in the neighborhood and, consequently, in the world. This disbelief is compounded when it becomes a reality over generations. With absolute belief in nothing. What was nihilism? Giving up all hope because of the injustice of money. This absolute nihilistic belief for those looting – born not only out of present day experiences but the experience of their parents’ too – is to behave in a manner these people have. Because the great truths we learn experientially…not cognitively.

So, if you cannot find justice, or get equality on your own, what should you do? All of these signs perceived to be about power, or feeling powerless. The discontent when you felt powerless, with no stake in the world. Alienated from the system that a society believed in. Though their mothers and sisters still loved them – unconditionally – what was the attitude of such men towards women? The ones who got a woman pregnant and left. Was it one of fear? Of being inadequate? Was it some kind of self-fear. There was a present day anger at Thomas Jefferson for having children out of wedlock with a slave. What would the present day feeling be if a white man got a black woman pregnant over and over and left?

When you cannot get equality and cannot expect justice, and it was unjust to loot? Without ever considering from whose past or whose present they were taking. And there were all these young people who asked not to be judged. Because for them there were no longer issues of right and wrong. When you never had had belief in institutions. Because when no one seemed to care about you, why should the young care about institutions?

The unrest. April in Venice. California that is. When hundreds of rival gang members congregated along the Los Angeles seafront. After some had posted on Twitter, shots rang out as police were strategizing a response to the crowd. People scattered, as pandemonium reigned.

Last week the National Retail Federation issued a report recommending how to prevent robberies in a flash attack, like the one last week at Water Tower Place in Chicago on Saturday night, as teens compete to knock out an unsuspecting victim with a single punch. Since February, student journalists at Loyola University’s Water Tower campus have been reporting on a rash of crimes committed by “flash mob offenders.” In April, the McDonald’s at Chicago Avenue and State Street, 70 youths descended and took over. The same scenes have occurred n Belleville, Missouri, mostly recently on July 9th.

In the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights up to one thousand teen youth at the July 4 fireworks display generated fights, general chaos, looting, and robberies. There was an unrest of the underemployed population, as 25 million people witness 2 percent of the population who are doing better than they ever have. When the world seemed so unfair.



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