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In Philadelphia, a group of 20-40 youths went on a rampage in Center City August 1st, resulting in 59 people being beaten and briefly hospitalized. Last Thursday, a mob ran through the Wisconsin State Fair at closing time, beating up people at random. In London, citizens have been besieged by three straight nights of hellish rioting, even as that rioting has spread to other parts of the nation. The common themes? A racial component, studiously ignored wherever possible; technology that makes mob organization far easier than ever before; and the undeniable relationship between welfare state policies and the expansion of underclass mores.
The racial element of these attacks is becoming impossible to ignore. In Philadelphia, black Mayor Michael A. Nutter, much to his credit, stepped into the breach. After telling black youths, “You have damaged your own race,” he announced an increase in police patrols in some neighborhoods, called on citizens to monitor the streets, and moved up a weekend curfew on minors to 9 p.m. Parents will also be subjected to increasing fines each time one of their children gets caught violating the curfew. “Take those God-darn hoodies down, especially in the summer,” said Nutter. “Pull your pants up and buy a belt ‘cause no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt.”
Nutter also challenged parents to take responsibility for their children, with specific admonition aimed at men. “If you’re just hanging out out there, maybe you’re sending them a check or bringing some cash by. That’s not being a father. You’re just a human ATM … And if you’re not providing the guidance and you’re not sending any money, you’re just a sperm donor,” he said. On Monday, he spelled out his intentions to maintain order using gang references. “Let me just share this with you. We’ve got the biggest, baddest gang in town — a committed group of citizens and a committed government — and we’re working together and we’re not going to have this nonsense anymore,” he warned.
In Wisconsin, race was not just an element of the attacks there, but apparently the entire impetus for them. The mayhem at the Wisconsin State Fair was reported as a mob of “dozens to 100 black teenagers,” who tore through the fairgrounds and the parking lot “beating white people at random.” This is the second such incident in Wisconsin in just over a month. On July Fourth weekend, another mob of rampaging “youths” attacked people at Kilbourn Reservoir Park and looted a BP gas station nearby. The following Tuesday, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn noted that crime is “colorblind.” Here is the video of the BP gas station attack. Readers can draw their own conclusions.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker responded by sending in the State Police to maintain safety for the remainder of the fair, and organizers of the event instituted their own curfew, barring unaccompanied minors from enter the grounds after 5 p.m. Yet even after witnesses confirmed that the attacks had a racial element to them, West Allis Mayor Dan Devine walked on eggshells. He released a statement saying that “thuggery” doesn’t belong at the fair, and that he was appalled “a group of hoodlums” had cast a “negative light” on the traditionally family-friendly event.
In London, there was a racial aspect to the violence as well, where riots were triggered by the killing of a 29-year-old black man named Mark Duggan. Initial reports said Duggan opened fire on police officers who were following him, striking one of the officers in his police radio near the side of the chest. Yet a subsequent story revealed the bullet that lodged in the officer’s radio was “police-issue,” and while Duggan was armed with a “blank-firing weapon which had been converted,” he drew it, but reportedly never fired it.
That incident precipitated riots last Saturday, sparked by “community grievances” in Duggan’s home district of Tottenham, a predominantly “multi-cultural” neighborhood where several gangs predominate. Duggan reportedly belonged to the Stars, who have a reputation for being armed drug dealers intent on making money.
Yet what might have begun as a racial incident mushroomed far beyond that, and far beyond Tottenham. Youths engaged in three nights of virtually unrestrained violence, looting, burning cars and stores, and in one incident, reportedly trying to murder a police officer in North London. Copycat riots have spread to Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol, as well as Nottingham and Leeds.
Prime Minister David Cameron, forced to return from vacation to deal with the unrest, which he characterized as “sickening scenes of people looting, vandalising, thieving, robbing,” vowed to restore order. The police canceled all leaves and planned to put 16,000 officers on the streets last night, nearly tripling their previous number of 6,000 who were unable to quell the violence. “This is criminality pure and simple and it has to be confronted and defeated,” said Cameron. The use of water cannons and plastic bullets was also being contemplated to subdue the mobs.
Like their counterparts in the United States, the mobs are all too easily organizable courtesy of modern technology. Texting, social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and instant messaging, allow for an unprecedented level of timing, coordination and flexibility of flash mob organization, all of which put law enforcement officials at a distinct disadvantage. “What is making this unique today is the social media aspect,” said Everett Gillison, Philadelphia’s deputy mayor for public safety. “They can communicate and congregate at a moment’s notice. That can overwhelm any municipality.”
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