Monday, December 10, 2007

The Baltimore 9 - Hate Crime Or Simple Beatdown!?!?

[Racial Disparities Week Begins at]

There's another Jena 6 brewing in Charm City, and as more details emerge, this one's bound to get alot uglier.
As the 26-year-old Baltimore woman beaten on a public bus by nine middle school students was put into witness protection yesterday, conflicting accounts raised questions about whether the attack was racially motivated.

One of the girls charged in the assault told The Sun yesterday that there were no racial overtones in Tuesday's after-school incident on West 33rd Street, insisting that no racial slurs were exchanged.

The victim, Sarah Kreager, told The Sun in a telephone interview last night that she feels race might have played a part in the attack, but she said the events spiraled out of control because the adolescents became caught up in actions of their peers.

MTA police said Kreager, who is white, was punched, kicked and dragged off the bus during the melee, which started about 3 p.m. Tuesday on the No. 27 bus in the 800 block of West 33rd Street.

The nine youths, who are African-American, are all 14 or 15 years old and attend Robert Poole Middle School in Hampden. They were released to their parents and charged as juveniles with aggravated assault and destruction of property.

Maryland Transit Administration officials stood by their earlier statement that they are investigating the attack as a possible hate crime - though they did not release any specifics.
Before I go any deeper on this one, let me go on record: I in no way ever have, nor ever would condone a 9-on-1 attack, and regardless of the motivation here, just like in Jena, LA, there is no justification whatsoever for what these children did. Period. The fact that the victims were both homeless only makes these allegations more heinous.

However, just as in Jena (where there was no hate crime charged), I'm not sure if this one qualifies as a hate crime either. To me, this was just a bunch of very poorly raised kids who would have likely jumped anyone on that bus, regardless of their race.

This ultimately boils down to Kreager's word vs those of the kids. Neither side seems to be particularly credible, when you consider all the facts.
According to a police report, one of the boys kept jumping in front of Kreager and claiming that the open seats on the bus were reserved.

When Kreager finally found a seat, the teens began throwing punches at her and her boyfriend, according the report. The beating continued, police said, even as the eastbound bus lurched to a stop and the driver radioed for help about 3 p.m.

At one point in the Tuesday afternoon attack, police said the teens punched and kicked Kreager, broke down the rear door of the bus and dragged her into the street. The report says she suffered two broken bones in her left eye socket, two deep cuts on the top of her head and other cuts on her neck and back. Her face was bruised and her left eye was swollen shut.

Kreager was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center. Her companion, Troy Ennis, also was beaten, police said, but did not require hospital treatment.

But the mother of one of the suspects says the victim, for an unknown reason, provoked the attack by spitting in the face of one of the girls. Beverly Bell, whose son is an eighth-grader at Robert Poole, said the victim's boyfriend then pulled out a knife and threatened the girls, which prompted the boys to attack the man.

Police said the suspects are also believed to have menaced an elderly passenger, who is white, and to have assaulted the bus operator, an African-American male who defended his passenger.

Police said no evidence had been found to back up the claims of suspects' parents that Kreager or Ellis had provoked the incident by spitting or displaying a knife.
Kreager's black eye (seen in the photo) is not the result of the attack, but rather seems to be the reason the kids were picking on her in the first place. The kids say Kraeger spat on her, which escalated into the "fight" in the first place. No racial epithets were apparently uttered. The bus driver (who is black) came to Kraeger's defense and was also beaten. Kraeger is iffy on whether she thinks the attack was racially motivated.

Overall, this is a mess. But one thing seems quite evident: just as in Jena, these kids are indeed guilty of extremely poor judgement and should be held accountable for their actions. I think this case also highlights the sometimes sketchy environment on public transportation, and the quandary many adults face when confronting kids that are acting unruly.

Often when I ride the Metro (DC's subway system), I'm confronted with a train full of rowdy and cursing teens. I don't usually say anything when I get on the Metro and hear schoolkids wildin' out. Does it irk the hell outta me? Sure. But does it irk the heck outta me enough to confront these kids and potentially catch a beatdown? Not so much. Reality is, kids who talk like that can't be corrected, that's a problem that started at home and isn't going to be solved by a rebuke from a stranger on the Green Line. The few instances in which I have actually seen an adult nicely ask the kids the "calm down, please", I've watched these folks serenaded with 4 letter words and taunts. It just ain't worth it. There's an issue of public safety I'd like to see addressed.

Kreager by all accounts was just minding her business, and when confronted about a seat, caught a beatdown. Spin it any way you like, but if those are indeed the facts, these 9 kids don't deserve your support, hate crime or not.

Let's all learn a lesson from Jena, and stop condoning foolishness.

Here's some news footage of the story. And if you've got a strong stomach, go over to the YouTube page and peep some of the outlandish comments on this video.

Interviews raise questions about race's role in bus attack [B'More Sun]

MTA looks at racial role in city bus attack [B'More Sun]

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