While the situation in Boystown keeps getting a bit crazier and more depressing, Milwaukee experienced mob violence in the Riverwest neighborhood on Monday evening. In the incidents, about 22 teenagers looted a BP convenience store, prior to about 11 people being assaulted and robbed in Reservoir Park. With this incident, there is surveillance video footage from the store posted online for people to possibly help identify the suspects. As of yesterday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that eight teenagers have turned themselves in, although another article from the Journal Sentinel says that on Wednesday four teenagers had been cited for disorderly conduct, theft, and curfew violation after their mothers called the Milwaukee police. (For a perspective from a mother that reported her children, Milwaukee’s ABC affiliate, WISN, spoke to one*.)
Today, charges were made against one person in connection to the Boystown stabbing. A longer window of time has elapsed between Sunday’s stabbing and a person being charged than the incident in Riverwest and seven people being charged. There are quite a few differences between the incidents, including that Riverwest residents haven’t started a Facebook page, there are two different police forces involved here, and Milwaukee is a little more than a fourth the size of Chicago. Another interesting aspect is that with the Milwaukee violence, both Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn and Mayor Tom Barrett were present at a community meeting and addressed the crowd.
Although my mother and sister live in the Milwaukee area and I visit there frequently, I know very little about Riverwest and among the things I do know, I can tell you that Lakefront Brewery has a lager named after the neighborhood. I can tell you more about the climate in Boystown because I used to patronize some businesses in that area. But first, a discussion on identity.
In Sociology, there’s a concept called “intersections,” which means that various factors will affect what social problems a person might experience and how that person might deal with those issues. A person like me that is not upper-class, but white and German-American will have a much different experience in life than a man that is working to middle-class, white and German-American. If you are lower-class, African-American, a teenager, and gay, regardless of your gender, your life will be much different than if you were a middle- or upper-class, white, gay teenager. With the Milwaukee mob violence, the individuals are young and African-American, but still live with their parents.
The problem with how people are identified or identify themselves is that those labels and identities can make things a bit more difficult. As I mentioned in my last post, there has been a lot of racist and agist rhetoric used in regards to the attacks and the perceived perpetrators of the attacks. There is a Facebook page called “Center on Halsted FAIL” that supports the termination of the Youth Programs at the center, which serves as a community center for LGBT individuals, believing that said programs are the cause of the violence. The page also argues that the teenagers using Center on Halsted harass the business patrons and residents as they hang outside of the center after it has closed.
Since I discussed it in my previous post, I’ll try not to beat the horse of “they need these programs” too much. I will point out that a problem facing LGBT adolescents is that they might be kicked out of their homes for being gay, bisexual, or transgendered. Would it be better to have programs available to those in need of the resources even with resident opposition, or force LGBT adolescents into dangerous situations more often because they wouldn’t have a safe place to go? While it could be argued that these teenagers could just go to a shelter, there is the possibility that they could be turned away due to space limitations, as well as due to age restrictions. Furthermore, LGBT youth would need a safe space that would also respect them as an individual that is not straight and a majority of homeless shelters might not be able to provide that.
There are two interesting things with the argument that Center on Halsted youth programs are directly related to the violence. The first is that the man that was charged today is a 24-year-old man. He is a 24-year-old man. Another interesting thing is that the Howard Brown Health Center operates the Broadway Youth Center in Lakeview that offers numerous programs for youth under the age of 24, including programs for those that are currently homeless. However, Broadway Youth Center is not in what people consider to be Boystown and not easy to find. Center on Halsted is closer to the bars and other businesses and very easy to find because of it has its own building. The location of Center on Halsted, as well as its visibility are the only justifications I can think of for why people are going after their youth programs and not the Broadway Youth Center.
In the cases of some of those involved with the mob attacks in Milwaukee, we know those people live at home, and have mothers who have gone and turned in their children. In Milwaukee, there is no physical institution to scapegoat for the violence, just the kids for carrying out the actions and parents for maybe not keeping an eye on their children. But there are parents that have turned in their children, which is an actual action to possibly keep that incident from happening again. With any social problem, including violence, there is no easy solution. What needs to be done is to use the solution that works the best.
Back to what’s happening in Chicago, WBEZ has a very interesting piece on how this incident is affecting Boystown. In the piece, it is brought up that some minority LGBT youth are allegedly approached in that area are solicited for prostitution as well as drugs. A problem with that is it could possibly feed into more crime related to those specific crimes. Because I don’t know if that’s substantiated, I won’t say much other than that soliciting minorities for prostitution and drugs in a predominantly white neighborhood strikes me as exploitative.
*Much thanks to my mother for telling me about the story on WISN.