A disgraceful wall of silence

Published 7:50 pm Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It took a video posted on YouTube to finally get the wheels of justice turning after a brawl broke out in the street and in front yards along Sierra Drive in the East Suffolk Gardens neighborhood.

Police were called to the scene of the fight, but upon arriving they found no one willing to talk to them about what had happened soon after a school bus had left its passengers in the 1400 block of Sierra Drive on Dec. 14. Neither those who were participating in the fight nor the bystanders who watched — and there were several of both, as it turns out — were interested in seeing that justice was done that day, and all were uncooperative with police.

Fortunately for the cause of justice, however, someone shot a video of the fight and posted it on YouTube. When Suffolk police learned of the video, members of the Neighborhood Enforcement Team got together with school resource officers to view it and use it to identify those who participated. Just before Christmas, seven teens and young adults were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for their part in the incident.

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It’s hard to know whether to be disgusted that someone would calmly videotape a streetside brawl and or be glad that there’s evidence that police were able to use to charge those who were involved. In fact, there’s little — aside from the work of the police — for Suffolk to be proud of in relation to the fight.

The culture of violence that begets such brawls, the indifference to human suffering that results in neighbors and friends standing around and watching the whole thing take place, the indignant defense of mothers who claim there was some good reason for their sons to be involved in the fight — all of it paints a very sad picture of one particular Suffolk neighborhood, and of the city in general.

Perhaps most disgusting, however, is that video and what it says about the lack of respect that some people have for the city’s police. Whoever shot the video remained silent along with everyone else when police asked who had been involved in the brawl. The videographer had little interest in the civic duty of helping to make sure justice was done. But the same person had a great deal of interest, it seems, in making the participants of the fight famous.

We suppose we should be glad that the video surfaced and helped police make their arrests. We’d have felt much better, however, if that help had come directly from some brave soul who cared enough for his or her community to want to help make sure the thugs were hauled away.