Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Norfolk School Board Member Billy Cook Demands That Black Leaders Address Black Youth Violence After "Norfolk Seven" Gang Attack On White Teen

The Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot reports that Billy Cook, a Norfolk School Board member who is black, sent out an e-mail in which he called for community leaders, especially black leaders, to speak out against violence. In a follow-up interview, he particularly decried the fact that black youths are over-represented in discipline reports he sees from the schools. This report is supplemented by an additional report from WVEC Channel 13 in Norfolk.

We need to address the issue directly, deliberately and intentionally, and say 'Enough is enough,’” Cook said.

This reaction comes in the wake of a gang-style attack by an estimated seven black youths against 13-year old Damian O'Rourke at the corner of Marlow and Orange Avenues in the Ocean View district. The attack, lasting around 40 seconds, left him with a bloody nose and face, as well as additional bruises and scrapes.

In the video (which can be viewed at the link), O'Rourke struggled to stay on his feet as several youths punched and pushed him from all sides. When he finally went down, the blows didn’t cease; he tried to protect his face and head with his hands. As he pleaded for them to stop, he was kicked in the face. A review of the video shows that five of the blacks were actively involved in the attack. Police have now identified all seven suspects from watching the video, and indicated any they identify could face misdemeanor assault charges. [Ed. Note: That's one lesson they earned from Jena - don't overcharge the perps]

However, despite the fact that Damian is white and his assailants black, police still refuse to entertain the very real possibility that the assault is racially motivated, because of information gathered by Gang Squad investigators which they cannot release at this time. The failure to release the information gave rise to speculation that O'Rourke may have voluntarily agreed to be "jumped into a gang" for his own protection. Further fueling that speculation was O'Rourke's contention that he had been harassed by blacks at Northside Middle School, including one of his assailants.

In addition, the fact that the fight was recorded on video further fueled speculation about it being "staged". However, that notion was quickly quashed after it was learned that the videotaper was a disinvolved youth from the neighborhood who uses a camera to capture images of skateboarding. Damian O'Rourke refused to identify the youth. He said the youth gave his family a copy of what he recorded; they, in turn, released it to news outlets. And WVEC reported that the youth with the camera had been threatened at school for taping the assault.

Nevertheless, O'Rourke's parents say investigators were accusing their son of being affiliated with the Crips, which they vigorously deny. "Detectives were going through his room searching for blue clothes and found out he had a blue outfit. But he has a green outfit, a red outfit, but they singled out the gang outfit saying it's gang clothes,” said Mr. Price. "My son ain't a part of any gang. He doesn't even really have friends. He's trying to make friends."

Media research uncovered the fact that there has been prior trouble in that same neighborhood. Just one week earlier, someone is believed to have jumped another child in Willoughby Terrace. The victim’s father in that case claims the same group seen in the attack on O’Rourke was involved in the attack against his son. However, in this case the boy was able to fend off the attack and get away more quickly.

And back in July 2007, a group of at least 16 people attacked three men in East Ocean View; one died. Police charged seven people, ages 15 to 29, in that case. But police do not think the two attacks are either connected or are part of a larger pattern.

But what really escalates the concern is one word - Jena. This incident comes on the heels of the rally that drew an estimated 20,000 to Jena, La., to protest the treatment of several black youths who were charged with serious crimes in connection with an assault on a white youth, Justin Barker, while completely ignoring Barker's concern. While the circumstances appear to be different – protesters in Jena said the young defendants were being treated too harshly – the national news media, some international news outlets, and the blogosphere have taken an interest in the Norfolk case. The Jena rally has provoked a huge and growing backlash from many elements of the white community.

The timely, pertinent, and courageous remarks by Billy Cook are designed to prevent the backlash from spreading to his city. Unlike civil rights pimps like Jesse, Al, and MLK #3, Cook is promoting responsbility, and demanding that others embrace it. Unfortunately, such people are often denounced as "Oreos" by the larger segment of the black community. It remains to be seen if Norfolk will respond to his call.

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