FLASH MOB ALERT: University City, NOW NOT!



AL IN PHILADELPHIA: On Saturday, March 20, 2010 the South Street District was hit with what the media have been calling a “flash mob”–large groups of teenagers converging on areas organized through social networking websites and microblogs like Flickr. That night I would estimate between 10-20,000 mainly high school students filled the streets and sidewalks. There wasn’t too much going on, as many of the store owners closed up shop in fear of riots and looting, as happened a few weeks earlier with another, much smaller “flash mob” in Center City. Overall, everyone was pretty well behaved, although there were a few minor altercations with the police, and every once in a while there would be a short-lived stampede. Most of the kids just wanted me to take their pictures, which is what you see here. Then at about 10:20 some gunshots were fired near 13th and Bainbridge (1/2 block south of South Street), very near to where I was shooting, as the crowds leaving the South Street district were pouring out onto Broad Street. The Police were starting to get very tense. At that point, I called it a night.  MORE

UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: The Division of Public Safety has been made aware through various sources that a large gathering of juveniles will be convening on the 40th Street corridor later this afternoon. DPS is working closely with the City of Philadelphia and SEPTA Police to ensure there will be an enhanced police presence in the area. Please plan your routes away from 40th Street this afternoon. MOREradio-tower-communication.thumbnail.jpg


RELATED: City officials, police top brass and prosecutors, with a phalanx of police officers behind them, on Wednesday announced stepped-up enforcement measures to combat “flash mobs” and warned parents that they could face charges if their kids participate. Mayor Michael Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey sought to send out a zero-tolerance message to teens and offer words of reassurance to residents, businesses and tourists that the city is safe. The message repeated by every speaker at a news conference near the site of Saturday’s rioting: Parents must take responsibility for their children, or face the legal consequences. MORE


NBC PHILADELPHIA:  A “large gathering of juveniles” will be gathering in University City this afternoon, the University of Pennsylvania’s public safety division warns. Various messages on Twitter warn teens planning to swarm yet another part of the city Wednesday that police have the heads up on their dangerous game. “Philly flashmob folx, be careful PPS and Phila Police are going to be there today,” a Twitter used named “mattack” tweeted at about 12:50 p.m. The university’s division of public safety says it’s working with Philadelphia and SEPTA authorities to make sure there is a large police presence at 40th radio-tower-communication.thumbnail.jpgand Market streets this afternoon in case another violent group of teens convene. MORE


NEW YORK TIMES: The flash mobs have raised questions about race and class. Most of the teenagers who have taken part in them are black and from poor neighborhoods. Most of the areas hit have been predominantly white business districts. In the flash mob on Saturday, groups of teenagers were chanting “black boys” and “burn the city,” bystanders said. In a Feb. 16 melee, 150 teenagers spilled out of the Gallery shopping mall east of City Hall during rush hour and rampaged through Macy’s, knocking down customers and damaging displays. The police arrested 15 of the teenagers and, according to one report, some had not been allowed to call their parents six hours after they were detained. Clay Yeager, a juvenile justice consultant and former director of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in Pennsylvania, said he believed the flash mobs were partly a result of a decline in state money for youth violence prevention programs. Financing for the programs has dropped 93 percent to $1.2 million in this year’s budget compared with $16 million in 2002. City financing for such programs has dropped to $1.9 million in the past three years compared with $4.1 million from 1999 through 2002, a 53 percent drop. Mayor Nutter, who is black, rejected the notion that race or the city cut in services was a factor. “I don’t think people should be finding excuses for inappropriate behavior,” Mr. Nutter said. “There is no racial component to stupid behavior, radio-tower-communication.thumbnail.jpgand parents should not be looking to the government to provide entertainment for their children.”



UPDATE: After online rumors stoked fears Wednesday of yet another potential flash mob – this time at 40th and Market Streets – police told businesses there to close, parked cruisers in the middle of street and stationed officers at each corner. No large, destructive group of teenagers materialized. Still, the police mobilization showed the city’s heightened sensitivity to the phenomenon of flash mobs, which have struck Center City and South Street four times since December, fueling worries that the gatherings are harming businesses and the city’s image. MORE

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