Thursday, February 18, 2010

3:10 to Market

Anyone who's ever been standing on a subway landing in Philadelphia around 3pm knows the threat of Philadelphia's school children. Mobs of khaki donning teens crowd the landings and trains. They are an imposing force. Loud, rowdy and fearless these kids dominate the scene.

One day while I was coming up the steps from the Broad Street line the Market train had just let out and a man was walking towards me. I watched a group of five or six kids swarm this guy. They ran up from behind him, knocking his bag off of his shoulder, swinging at his body and smashing his head into the wall. Before this man knew what happened the crew kept running and was gone. All that was left of the attack was a confused subway rider and a blood smear on the wall.

I stood in astonishment. It was nearly rush hour. I wasn't a bar crowd or a packed sports train. It was mid-afternoon and this man was just brutally attacked by school kids. Kids with no fear or respect of anyone or anything. I used to be one of those kids. Sure I was in Jersey and I wasn't randomly attacking adults on the subway but I know the type.

This complete lack of respect for society itself- its rules and inhabitants has recently manifested itself in the form of flash mobs in the Gallery. Hundreds of high school kids converge on the Gallery, and the subways, on a regular basis. This is nothing new. But this past week the mob got rowdy. Worse than usual and when they were confronted they ran through the shops and the streets terrifying pedestrians, bombarding drivers and ransacking stores.

In other cities flash mobs are coordinated to protest perceived injustices or draw attention to a social trend. But in Philadelphia City Councilman Jim Kenney is calling these acts "urban terrorism" and looking to pursue legal battles with the social networking leaders- Facebook, MySpace and Twitter if it is found that the mobs were coordinated online.

But the city always seems to be a step behind the problem be it murders, snow removal or unruly kids in Center City. I think a little bit of proactive planning instead of retrospective clean-up is in order. In this case it's the kids and it's not just in Philadelphia. Kids do bad stuff. It happens but if you know that there are certain times and certain places that are problematic why wait until after the fact to act?

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