Monday, March 9, 2009

fight breaks out after youth concert on ellsworth

People stop to look at a makeshift memorial to murdered high school student Tai Lam on Ellsworth Drive.

I'm very, very disappointed to read that fights broke out after Saturday's "Stop the Violence" concert hosted by youth advocacy group Mixed Unity on Ellsworth. There's been a lot of talk about reducing youth violence in Silver Spring after the murder of Tai Lam last fall, and last night shows that we still have a long way to go in dealing with it.

There's going to be a lot of finger-pointing: at the surface level, blame falls on Downtown Silver Spring security and the concert's organizers; below that, there's some griping about the go-go band who played, because go-go shows across the region have been shut down for associated violence; and past that, the complaint that kids from "outside Montgomery County" are making trouble. I don't think this is the answer. It's far too easy to blame kids for acting up, and far too easy to say it's kids from D.C. and Prince George's County coming into our community. Some of the commenters on Silver Spring, Singular (where the tone right now is "I told you so") pointed out that bad parenting is at fault for bad behavior, and I think that's right on target.

But all I'm going to say is what I said last summer when people were upset about the bad behavior on Ellsworth, which is: don't back down. I'm not going to blame you for hanging out in Rockville or Bethesda instead, because both are very nice, and why should you have to worry about you or your family getting hurt by some thug? Even I was in Bethesda Saturday night enjoying some gelato and dodging groups of preppy high-schoolers. But I think it's ridiculous to concede that Downtown Silver Spring is "lost" in any way because of a few - very, very few - bad apples.

Not surprisingly, a concert didn't do much to improve safety - both real and perceived - on Ellsworth. But it does continue a discussion on how youth fit into Silver Spring, and what kind of place we want our new Downtown, five years old this summer, to become. If anything good can come out of Tai Lam's death, I'm glad it's that.


Anonymous said...

Obviously, none of this actually happened. Or if it did, it's the fault of the so-called "law-abiding" people in SS for not being more concerned about the lack of things for young people to do in SS.

Nothing will be done about this. Silver Spring will go (back) to hell because our govt. and civic leaders either don't see a problem or don't care.

Thomas Hardman said...

One of the almost good things that came out of the death of Tai Lam is that the County police have changed their public policy to check the immigration status of everyone arrested on charges of "crimes of violence" or for transporting/carrying a handgun. Sadly, they don't run such checks for people arrested for carrying concealed weapons, which is the only thing that would likely have got Tai Lam's alleged killers shipped out of the country instead of put pack on the street.

The thing is, there's one way to deal with violent people, and that's more and better violence, better organized and better equipped. It's why society hires armed men and gives them badges, radios, and a license to kill. Playing music, or nicey-nice, won't get people who think they own you to back off. Locking them up for 50 years will give them no choice but to back off.

We no longer have the money -- and pretty soon are likely to run out of patience as the numbers balloon out of control because of economic dislocation -- to play nicey-nice with violent people.

The only reason most of these fools act up like they do is because they believe, based on long experience, that there are no possible repercussions. When they stop accumulating that long experience of "ain't nothin' gonna happen to us" and start accumulating experience of "they came down on us like a ton of lead bricks and the judge threw the book at us", we shall see the folks of a certain ilk stop playing at violence like they find it entertaining. That will cut out everyone but the purely serious out of the picture, and almost every last person wearing a badge has been itching for most of their career to not have to bother with the small-fry anymore, and have plenty of time to go after the big fish. But first you have to clear all of the small-fry out of the way.

Of course, that probably won't happen. Too many do-gooders would lose their cushy jobs as program administrators administering programs that sound good to other do-gooders, but actually accomplish nothing but to convince idiots that it's okay to play the violent fool, "ain't nothin' gonna happen".

Anonymous said...

Thomas Hardman, I think I love you.