|Odds on the first big riot of 2012 being in Philly? High.|
THREE JUVENILES accused of assaulting a cabdriver and his passenger in Center City Saturday night while shouting racial slurs will not be charged with a hate crime, the District Attorney's Office said yesterday.
The teens, who are black, were not charged with hate crimes because there was no evidence that the assault had been motivated by the race of the victims, who are white, said Tasha Jamerson, D.A. spokeswoman. Just shouting racial epithets during the commission of a crime doesn't rise to the level of ethnic intimidation, she said.
"They just didn't have that in this case," she said. "If they had somebody who, two blocks before, heard them say, 'We're going to beat somebody up because they're white, brown or purple,' it might be different."
However, the three teens - two of whom are 17 and one who is 15 - have all been hit with additional counts of aggravated assault, since the passenger in the cab, Brian Goldman, came forward Monday.
About 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Goldman was in a cab that was stopped at a red light at 15th and Chestnut streets when he and his 53-year-old cabdriver were assaulted at random.
Goldman escaped. The cabbie, whom police have not identified, was able to flag down officers who nabbed the attackers. Goldman said that he hadn't heard any of the attackers make racial comments, but police said that the cabbie heard them.
A WOMAN'S leg was broken and several other people were injured Saturday night when a large group of teens accosted pedestrians in Spring Garden, police and witnesses said.
Philadelphia police responded to two reports of pedestrians being assaulted by a large group of young people along Broad Street about 9:30 p.m.
One of those reports came from Emily Guendelsberger, 27, city editor for local arts and entertainment content for the Onion, the satirical newspaper and website. She was walking with seven friends on Green Street near Broad when they were accosted, she said. Guendelsberger, who remained hospitalized with a broken leg yesterday, declined to comment further.
In the small hours of Sunday, July 23, Detroit police raided a “blind pig” (an after-hours bar) at 12th and Clairmount—about a mile from where my mother grew up. There were protests as police made arrests, but then people in the crowds started breaking windows, looting stores, and setting fires. The police, heavily outnumbered, made no efforts to stop them; Commissioner Ray Girardin felt that would only invite more violence.
White mayor Jerome Cavanagh was elected in 1961 at age 33 with near-unanimous support from the city’s black voters. He started ambitious poverty programs and brought in $360 million in federal money.
“A spirit of carefree nihilism was taking hold,” said the Kerner Commission Report, which was supposed to be the definitive statement on America’s urban unrest. It was an odd description of what was going on. Firemen, unprotected by police, abandoned 100 city blocks. The looting and arson continued during the day even as Representative John Conyers, then serving his second term in the House and now chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called on rioters to stop and as Cavanagh met with black leaders at police headquarters at 1300 Beaubien (a building site familiar to readers of the crime novels of Elmore Leonard). I arrived at the City-County Building around noon and found my way into meetings. At one point Mayor Cavanagh asked me, fresh from my first year of law school, whether he had the power to declare a curfew. He ordered one at 7:45 p.m., and by 9:00 p.m. Governor George Romney had declared a state of public emergency.
The riot set in motion decisions and actions that physically and spiritually destroyed much of the city over the next four decades. It sped the exodus of whites from the city to the suburbs north of Eight Mile Road; it staunched the flow of investment into the city; it led to a vast increase in crime. Coleman Young, Detroit’s mayor from 1973 to 1993, was blatantly hostile to whites and seemed entirely unperturbed by the city’s crime. Today when I drive in Detroit I see neighborhoods with burned-out, abandoned houses and empty lots once inhabited by middle-income homeowners. Detroit had 1,600,000 residents at the time of the riot. The latest Census estimate is about 919,000.
My political views have changed over those years, more because of what has happened to Detroit than anything else. In retrospect, it is plain that Detroit was as likely to have a riot as any other major city and that the programs I hoped would produce a kind of heaven in our central cities ended up producing something much more like hell. A more forceful response to the crowd outside the blind pig might have prevented the riot (as it probably did, without much notice, in other cities), and a more rapid deployment of federal troops could have stopped it earlier (as happened in Los Angeles in 1992). But it’s not clear to me that we could have avoided the disastrous policy responses that were already in train in 1967: taking a more lenient view of urban crime and promoting greater welfare dependency among blacks. That was a wrong turn, but white America did have sins to answer for, and what seems to me now the more productive response—nurturing middle-class habits and educational achievement among blacks—was a course white Americans felt too guilty to pursue. The people left in Detroit are still paying the price.
It started in Detroit with the Black Riot of 1967, and has continued to plague city after city that experiences true Climate Change in its wake. Philadelphia is the next Detroit, though Mayor Nutter seems more inclined to address rising levels of Black crime threaten the city’s economic vitality then did Mayor Coleman Young.