By Greta Cobar
Violence preceded summer this year in Venice with a shooting, a stabbing and several mass fights. As a result, the LAPD will substantially increase its patrol officers’ presence at the beach starting the first weekend in May.
Six gunshots were fired April 16 around 6:30pm on OFW and 17th Av. One 23-year old male from the South LA area was struck twice, in the head and torso, and was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Then several fights involving groups of people broke out throughout OFW on April 17 around that same time, and the crowds were dispersed. The following weekend, April 24, a stabbing occurred at the drum circle, again right before sunset.
No suspects were apprehended in any of the three aforementioned confrontations. In addition, all three of them involved visitors, not Venice locals.
On April 16 there was a group of hundreds of teenagers standing by the basketball court closest to the police station. Alexandria Thompson, of Venice311, was the first to report the gathering as a “gang-related” “flash mob” promoted through Twitter. Mainstream media soon followed suit with dozens of headlines blaming the gathering and the eventual gunshots on Twitter.
However, as first pointed out by Bret Miller of YoVenice, a simple search on Twitter does not yield the hundreds of tweets that Venice311, the LAPD and mass media allege. An email sent to Twitter asking whether the posts were deleted and by who was answered by an automated response stating that “due to the high volume of requests we receive, unfortunately, we are not able to respond to many inquiries.”
Just because the tweets are not available at this time does not mean that they never existed. However, I have personally seen similarly dressed, similarly aged, and similarly sized groups of teenagers peacefully congregate on the beach on several previous occasions and as recently as April 1. If Twitter were responsible for their April 16 gathering, then it would have played a part in the past as well, a fact that has never been previously reported.
What can easily be found on Twitter right after the time of the April 16 shooting, however, are hundreds of tweets featuring media headlines concerning the Twitter-created gang “flash mob.” Not surprisingly the following day, April 17, hundreds of other inner-city teenagers flooded the beach, acting “as if they came here to fight, they just wanted to fight,” said an OFW shop owner who chose to remain anonymous. He went on to say that “the police had problems breaking up the fights, there were so many people involved.”
Although it cannot be verified that Twitter created the April 16 gathering because those tweets did not exist following the shooting, it can be inferred that it inspired the April 17 crowds and violence. At least eight mass fights were reported during that afternoon on OFW and at the drum circle. Re-enforcements of officers in riot gear were brought out and were ordered to walk in a line, in a soldier-like manner, to evacuate the beach.
Only a week later, on April 24, a 20-year old was stabbed at the drum circle and taken to the hospital in stable condition.
And summer has not even started yet. Venice is now not just a major tourist attraction, but also the cheapest. The current large crowds will become even larger as the economy shows no signs of recovery, people are broke and cannot afford the other tourist destinations, most of which charge hefty admission charges.
I will go on further to say that the sluggish economy is to blame not only for the large crowds, but for the incidences of violence as well. Unemployment, poverty, cuts in social services and lack of prospect drive people to aggression. The solution is not to create a police state by adding more officers, but to generate a more equal distribution of wealth in the so-called richest country in the world.