Mayor Michael Nutter took a hard line against youth mob violence yesterday — chastising the black community in particular— from the pulpit of his West Philadelphia church.
“This nonsense must stop,” he thundered at Mount Carmel Baptist Church. “If you wanna act like a butthead, your butt’s gonna get locked up. If you wanna act like an idiot, move; we don’t want you here anymore.”
Nutter’s remarks were met with riotous applause as he addressed absentee parenting, peer pressure, and a sense of entitlement and disregard for consequences that seems to permeate teens who participate in violent swarms. The remarks came on the heels of the latest mob attack on July 29 in Center City, when two men were assaulted by 20 to 40 teens.
“Parents, if you don’t know where your kids are, you’re gonna find yourself spending quality time with them in jail,” he said, calling absent fathers “walking ATMs” and “sperm donors.”
“Please talk to your children because things are going to change,” he warned. The city said on Friday that it would ramp up enforcement of the teen curfew with a beefed-up weekend police deployment, and Nutter is expected to announce more serious measures involving both community groups and the court system at noon today.
Some in the black community agreed with Nutter’s assessment, but say extra enforcement measures aren’t enough to deal with the complicated sociological problems that have fostered a culture of violence.
“A black man may not have an opportunity to take care of his children. There are no jobs,” said security officer Douglas Jordan, 49. “More police will solve nothing. You have to get to [the kids’] hearts. Throwing their mom in jail ... is just going to cause more havoc.”
While Nutter admitted that “99 percent” of Philadelphia teens are law-abiding kids, he said the other one percent are doing irreparable damage to their peers — and to their race. “Some of them have made chains on our wrists,” he said. “I am forced by the stupid, dumb, ignorant actions of a few to take actions tomorrow that will affect many.”
“If you wanna be aggressive, we’ll be aggressive and we’ve got the biggest, baddest gang in town,” he said.
— Additional reporting by Yotam Dror