Watching Philadelphia burn the last two nights brought back memories of the L.A. riots in 1992. I was living in Long Beach, CA and we had a curfew and I had National Guard soldiers patrolling my block. A record store (they still existed way back then) and other stores a couple blocks away were completely looted and burned down. I remember lying in bed, hoping the roving gangs didn’t come down my street. But, then, like now, there were no stores on my block, thus nothing of interest for looters. Now, I live a block away from a reviving commercial corridor, but there are no big stores up there like a Target or CVS that provide a lure for the rioters. So, I spent last night under a curfew that started at 6:00pm and hearing sirens go through the neighborhood, but not stopping.
This morning, I saw stories of looting and arson across the river in West Philadelphia. Now, protesters are taking out livelihoods and stores in primarily African-American neighborhoods. The very people they claim to be fighting for. Yes, videos show a lot of African-Americans joining in the looting, but based on other videos, the instigators are white, young males who appear to be taking great joy in the destruction they wreak. They get to go back to their intact homes in the ‘burbs. They don’t have to live in the middle of that destruction and try to figure out how it all happened. The same thing in Center City on Saturday night. Sunday saw residents coming out to help with clean up along Walnut and Chestnut streets which were the hardest hit on Saturday (no police presence for almost two hours!)
I did see video from late last night/early this morning of West Philly residents trying to clean up, and I read a story of some (black) business owners who managed to protect their stores and restaurants because they had firearms and stood guard. One of the reasons they were forced into that situation is because when the National Guard showed up late last night, they were deployed around City Hall and other points in Center City. So the instigators moved into unpatrolled areas. Our city officials have not been covering themselves with glory during this craziness. They haven’t even been covering them selves with less-than-gifted competence.
Between the virus lock down and now this craziness, Philly has a very long, rough economic road ahead. Some areas will come back with relative ease because of the tourism. Others, like West Philly will see pockets of recovery around UPenn and Drexel, but further out, they’re screwed. North of Temple University, they’re screwed as well (until you get to the Northeast which is part of the city, but really a series of suburbs).
If all goes according to our plan, hubby and I will be moving out of Philadelphia this summer or fall. I love the people (mostly) and vibe of this city and I will miss it. But, the politics (this is full-on Tammany Hall, cement shoes, old school machine politics) and those in charge in City Hall have become a significant drag on any and all efforts to build up a truly vibrant, thriving city. We’ve lived in this place for over 15 years. Gave it our best shot. And, watching city officials actively work against those who would try to improve the city is disheartening at best and truly criminal at worst.
And, right now, I’m hearing helicopters overhead and sirens in the distance. Oh, joy.
But, I have a cat demanding attention, and worlds that need to be written. I will keep an eye on things, but get back to what makes me happy. Until the time comes when we can leave.
Take care of yourselves and those you love.