Tuesday, August 13, 2002

The Issue That Will Not Die

Flexing must be vexing the Commercial Appeal. It must be a slow news day, because today's lead editorial in the CA is about "cruising." Note that they don't call it flexing anymore and the quotes are from the editorial! Old people, sheesh....

I've already covered this here, here, here, and here. But still, it's worth going over the CA's tired flogging of the issue.

Complaints that the ordinance infringes on the civil liberties of
innocent youths, depriving them of the opportunity to enjoy a
harmless recreational opportunity, have been exaggerated. City
Council member Joe Brown's public invitation last week to young
people to "come down by the thousands and march on this city
government" was irresponsible.

Does the councilman believe the intimidation of legislative bodies
by excited mobs is a better way to create law than reasoned
debate? In fact, acts of intimidation led to the proposal for an
anti-cruising ordinance.
There's a whole rant in that last paragraph, about the relationship of government to citizens and the right of people to assemble, but it'll have to wait for another day. Sometimes, a little intimidation is required to remind the government of its place, that they are the servants of the people and not their masters. Also, pleas for "reasoned debate" too often cover for a bloodless, airless sophistry that, like modern philosophy, can argue anything, freed of connection to the lives of citizens. Life is messy and sometimes government must be too.

But there's no "exaggeration," here. They do want to restrict the freedoms of the City's black kids, to protect the profits and leisure of a powerful few.

In growing numbers, downtown residents, tourists and other
visitors have complained of being threatened, bullied and kept
awake all night by motorists who circle the block incessantly - and
sometimes erratically - near hotels and apartments with horns
honking and bulked-up car stereo systems blaring.

Tourists and Memphians, including several council members, have
described personal encounters with young cruisers that
convinced them it may be only a matter of time before acts of
verbal and physical harassment escalate into more serious
violence. Several visitors have said that as long as the cruisers
are downtown, they won't be.
In other words, there's been nothing yet but the fears of suburban whites with little experience of urban blacks. Notice there's still no reports of actual incidents, just "fear." And folks who live downtown don't want the busyness of the place to impact their privileged lives. Someone from New York should talk to these folks, and soon, because these idiots have no clue!

Brown warns the ordinance could be enforced in a way that
discriminates against young people who aren't harming anyone.
That's a concern, but the same could be said of most laws on the

Any police officer who engages in harassment should be held
accountable for his or her actions. The Police Department has an
internal affairs bureau that investigates such complaints.
Does anyone really doubt that this law would be selectively enforced, and differently enforced depending on the race of the officer and of the complainant?

Ask any Memphis black about run-ins with the police. Ask those who've gone to the Review Board if they were satisfied or if the incident was ruled in the police's favor. The CA's bland but bold-faced assertions are meaningless.

Councilman Myron Lowery's proposal that police crack down on
rowdy youths by vigorously enforcing the law against disorderly
conduct is valid. Such laws can be especially helpful if a police
officer witnesses the conduct. A city anti-noise law also could be
enforced more strictly downtown.

Better traffic control by police and cooperation by downtown
merchants, including parking garage operators, also would
improve traffic flow downtown...
There's your solution right there! But it would require more police than are currently out there, which is expensive. Instead, give the police a tool they can whip out whenever circumstances are messy. I'm not anti-police, not by any means, but taking from the citizens their right of free assembly, no matter how unruly that assembly is, to give to the police even more power is almost always the wrong solution.

Downtown has grown and prospered with the addition of such
attractions as AutoZone Park, Peabody Place and South Main art
galleries. Beale Street continues to be a people magnet, with its
flourishing restaurant and club scene. Over the next two years or
so, a refurbished concert venue at Memphis Cook Convention
Center and a new arena will create demand for more parking
spaces, more traffic lanes for downtown ingress and egress, and
an even greater police presence.
And how much planning and adjusting has the City done in foreknowledge of this? Squat! Developers keep wedging more and more into the already-crowded downtown and the City just looks on. There's been no street-level planning of traffic and people flow. The parking situation was already bad before Autozone Park and other attractions were built. But the City blithely watches and the CA blames the kids.

The success of downtown Memphis affects the quality of life of
every resident of the region, by providing a greater variety of
cultural experiences and generating sales tax receipts that help
defray public costs of development. The new anti-cruising
ordinance would be a small but helpful tool in the overall effort to
make downtown thrive.
That first sentence is a load of hooey! It's a self-serving argument if ever there was one. The CA, and the City government, is in the back pocket of the developers and bankers who want to make piles of money. The citizenry has been hijacked and pushed around to make their fantasies come true, to line their pockets with our money.

This may seem a petty thing to get worked up over, but it's a very fundamental right that's being bought and sold here. I hope that crowds of kids show up at the City Council meeting and scare the holy crap out of them. Serves 'em right.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

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