Sunday, April 14, 2013



Today is theoretical weekends at Scission, but this is going to be anything but theoretical.  This is the real world.  If you have read my blog, you will already know about the police harassment of African American kids which takes place in the "exclusive" Country Club Plaza shopping and entertainment district here in Kansas City on warm spring and summer weekend nights.  The kids come to enjoy themselves, the media gets in a twitter about flash mobs, the police arrive and do what police do, some kids resist and get busted, once there was a shot fired and occasionally there have been some fights.  Obviously, the main problem is the police which occupy the Plaza on these nights in huge numbers, on foot, on horses, in patrol cars.  I have been observing this for two years now.  I have talked with kids who just want a place to have some fun in their lives without fear and I, a white person, have never been bothered by these kids...not ever.  The local media, however, likes to play this all up as "mobs of young people" harassing patrons of the area and causing trouble.  Again, in general, the mob is the police and the people being harassed are the kids.  Last year the city ordered a nine PM summer curfew.  I know this takes place in many places across the country.

Now, finally, a group of folks, mostly white, mostly associated with the local IWW (I think) are trying to do something about all this.  They have gone to the Plaza to actually video what is going on and to talk and actually LISTEN to what the kids have to say.  This was the first weekend for what is called PlazaWatch 2013.  It will not be the last.  What you will read directly below is a report on last night.  It was put together by a young woman from the IWW whom I had the good fortune to meet a while back during the Occupy stuff and with whom I have also been fortunate to remain in contact.  

You should know that PlazaWatch 2013 didn't just spring up out of nowhere.  This same women and her comrades have been working hard now for several years directly against white supremacy and white skin privilege and combatting racism in a fresh and energetic way (especially from the point of view of an old leftie like myself).

The path they have embarked on (whether they know it or not) is an important one.  It is one of rejecting their own white skin privilege, it is one of being a "race traitor (look it up)."  It is also a demonstration of the autonomous action of a group of self organized people who are demonstrating by their actions a way to stand up and a way to begin to build a new world.  I may sound dramatic, but I believe this.

Anyway here is what follows below;
  1. a description of last night's PlazaWatch
  2. a recording of some young African American women talking about their perception of what is going on (it's great)
  3. my article from 2011 giving some historical context and background on what has been going down and my own thoughts on it (it makes reference also to an article I put with it on some similar stuff in Philadelphia (I won't reprint that article here).
I will keep you updated, by the way, as things progress.

This is some good and important work going on...finally...I have been individually observing the same now for two years and talking with kids, but this is much better organized and involves more folks and has a strategy. I know Brianna and she and many of her friends and her comrades in the local IWW are going where no one here has gone before. Call me very impressed. I hope to join in soon...

PlazaWatch 2013 is on!! Most important note of the evening - Please do not post videos of the kids without the permission of everyone in the frame. Many of them did not trust the intentions of the people out filming and were very uncomfortable with it.

Second most important note - These kids are most definitely not a violent mob. The ones I talked to were a bit suspicious at first but nearly all of them warmed up pretty quickly after I explained what we were doing and why.

We need a couple of teams of people to film. I just can't stay out that late. I got too tired and couldn't make it past 11pm. The scene was exactly as the musician had described. At around 10pm kids all poured out of the theater. The cops main interest was in keeping the kids from blocking the sidewalks. Cops on horses got on the sidewalk and herded everyone a couple of blocks away from the theater. Some groups went one way, others went other ways. I am thinking another movie lets people out around 11:30, but again, I was just too tired to make it that long to find out for sure when the second round of cops on horses versus kids happens.

Any problems that would have arisen were, again, exactly as the musician had described. Cops telling kids to disperse even when they were not blocking the sidewalks (the cops are not supposed to do this) and then the kids getting pissed about the harassment. Bystanders injecting themselves into the conversation and filming deescalated several of these kinds of interactions. However, in each case the kids did end up moving when they should not have been required to do so.

Many of the kids were very upset about being filmed, but I promised them that the film would never be put up in public unless the cops started beating on people or something like that. This made them happy. Many were surprised to have someone on their side, and several of them offered high 5s.

What the kids want: A place for people under 18 with video games, chairs, pizza, kool-aid, and a dance room... A chill room :)

Things the kids responded well to: Being treated like human beings, being asked how they felt and being listened to when they answered, filming cops for the purpose of keeping the cops on their best behavior.

Things they did not respond well to: Being filmed without permission by people they do not know, being treated like little children and talked down to by adults, being asked how they felt and having their answers talked over or ignored, being told what to do without being asked about their thoughts on the matter.

Also, everything felt really safe and comfortable until around 11pm. The police presence became much more visible as the crowd around them thinned out.

Do these young women sound like the dangerous thugs the media makes the kids trying to enjoy themselves on the Plaza seem...

4-14-13 Audio of interview with teen women on the Plaza.


Friday, August 19, 2011


I am going to start this off by saying I am a white guy and I am opposed to me getting beat up just because of it (even if I can come up with reasons why).  That said, here we go.

The article you will find posted below pertains largely to Philadelphia, but what I am writing about pertains largely to Kansas City, Missouri, which is where I live.  

Just yesterday the city, my city, adopted a 9PM curfew on youth similar to the one in Philadelphia.  The curfew came in response to "large crowds of  (black) youth and acts of violence" on the Country Club Plaza.  The Country Club Plaza is the city's premier outdoor  shopping and entertainment district.  It was designed and built long ago and resembles a Spanish town.  It is also a prime tourist destination (for the few tourists who come to our city).  It is privately owned and features numerous upscale stores, restaurants, bars and is surrounded by hotels and high-rise condos.  A waterway runs along one side.

 (Disclosure: In 1970, when I had only just passed youthdom, and looked like the radical "hippie type" that I was, I was arrested on the Plaza for "interferring with a police officer making an arrest" of a friend who was selling the underground newspaper Vortex).  

Last Saturday night the mayor, an African American man, took a walk on the Plaza to see for himself what the hubbub about gangs of youth swarming the place was all about and to, in fact, talk to the kids.  Not a terrible idea.  Unfortunately, while there, a few shots were fired about a block away from where he stood and he was knocked to the ground by his bodyguards.  Three kids were slightly wounded in the incident.  Voila:  Curfew Time.  

The facts are that although black kids had been gathering in large numbers on weekend nights on the Plaza for several summers now, this is only the second time any shots were fired. The first time, in truth, actually was a block off the Plaza in a nearby park.  

Now, these "large numbers" of black youth have been hanging out on the Plaza for the same reasons you and I used to hang out somewhere when we were kids AND because for most of these kids hanging out on their block is dangerous.  It also leaves them open to gang activity.  So yeah, their parents figure they are better off on the Plaza.  They are right.

The media and talk shows here have been all atwitter about the "mobs" of  African American young people on the Plaza ever since the "phenomena" began a few summers back.

Interestingly enough, I live about a mile from the Plaza and virtually every weekend night (and many other nights as well) I take myself and my greyhound, Whitney, out for a late night stroll down to the place.  We wander about the Plaza amidst the "mobs" and you know what?  I have never been shot.  I have never been hassled.  I have never felt in any danger from those "large numbers of kids."  Yes, there are a whole lot of black kids there - as well as a whole lot of white people enjoying themselves.  So what?  Personally I find it refreshing to see these kids enjoying themselves, acting like kids...generally bothering no one.  Again, I am white.  Lots of these kids ask me about my dog and we talk.  It's cool.  It's almost like being IN A CITY.

No one has much cared when these same kids have been shot every night, as long as it has been "East of Troost Avenue," which in KC's quite segregated community, means the black neighborhoods.

Black kids in what has been sort of considered a playground for white folks and middle and upper class "others," now there is the rub, you see.  Can't have that.

I ask where in the hell are these kids supposed to hang and be kids and be somewhat safe.  There are no places like the Plaza, or even close, to hang out east of Troost.  Not every kid (in fact, damned few) are interested in "midnight basketball," gatherings at a local community center with adult supervision, church, after school activities and the like, which is what old fogies always seem to come up with as an alternative to the dangers of the streets.

I need to add here that these same black kids used to hang out in Westport, which is a smaller entertainment district, famous for drunken white twenty something males.  Westport didn't like the black kids being there and before you know they had been shooed away.  Some African American kids with cars tried cruising in Swope Park and the city thought that was no good and they were shooed away.

So a 9PM curfew is starting tonight on the Plaza and several other "entertainment" districts in town.  It begins slightly later in the neighborhoods.  The mayor says he wants to protect the kids.  Actually, because of who he is and where he comes from, I tend to believe him.  As a matter of fact, until his encounter last weekend, he has opposed such a curfew.  Still, the mayor is my age and his youth has passed him by.  Apparently, unlike me, his memory of that youth has passed on as well.

Placing a curfew on an entire community of young people is in reality a  military action, nothing less.  It is a vast overreaction to an unreality of media making and white fear...and wealthy businessmen.

Until this city, Philadelphia, and this whole nation wake up to the endemic and  unrelenting racism which is our history and which has left black youth living in poverty, living in danger, growing accustomed the sounds of gunfire, attending lousy schools, harassed constantly by police, with no job prospects, and incarcerated in huge numbers, all the curfews, all the talk, all the late night hoops programs, mean absolutely nothing.  

Philadelphia and other cities are experiencing the results of the same system of Capital, of white supremacy, and racism that led to the recent rebellions in England - and will eventually lead to the same large scale uprisings in this country.

Meanwhile, Whitney and I will head on down to the Plaza tonight and tomorrow night and check out the scene.  I fear that what we will find is that the white people will still be there, some older and middle class African Americans will still be there, the mobs of police that occupy the place every weekend will still be there - but the black kids will have been driven away and out of sight again.

America, love it or leave it.


Oread Daily said...

Here it is 2013 and obviously these kids have a hell of a lot more staying power than I gave them credit for. Despite the on going occupation by the police, the kids continue to come out...all power to them...

Anonymous said...

Here’s some things KC teens could do with their time: 1) their homework and studies 2) help elderly neighbors with house/yard chores 3) help their parent or parents around the house 4) volunteer for charity work 5) be big-brothers/sisters for younger kids acting as good role model 6) read some of the classic books 7) go to the library 8) study the bible 9) pick up and dispose roadside and neighborhood trash 10) exercise your body. There are lots of worthwhile activities to be be had if you look for them.