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Activists: Jobs and choices, not cameras and police will solve mob violence

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Vernon Douglas Vernon Douglas
Walter White Walter White
Tom Moffett Tom Moffett
Harlina Churn-Diallo Harlina Churn-Diallo
Devonzo Summers Devonzo Summers

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE)A number of community activists claim more police, more cameras and more punishment won't prevent a recurrence of the mob violence that plagued downtown and Waterfront Park two weekends ago.  Instead, they are pushing jobs and community centers.

Some teenagers say the solution is in creating their own opportunities.

Two-and-one-half hours into a marathon of pick-up basketball games Tuesday, Seneca High School juniors Vernon Douglas and Walter White more than make the case for the Newburg Community Center.

"It's gonna be enough. It's gonna keep me out of trouble," Douglas said.

"It needs to be open longer time," White said. "Cause I like hoopin'."

Besides, their mothers would prefer knowing where they are before curfew, which is set for 1 a.m. on weekends in Louisville, especially after the recent violence at Waterfront Park and the eastern side of downtown.

"She was worried. She thought I was out there," White said. "It's crazy out here. That's why I've been staying out of the way. I ain't (sic) trying to get locked up or nothing."

Metro Council member Barbara Shanklin put it more bluntly during Democratic caucuses last Thursday.

"They (teenagers) don't have any place else to go," she said.

Shanklin has lobbied to give children and teenagers more of their own community spaces, rather than have to share center facilities with senior citizens or other groups. But a number of community activists believe it's a stretch to see community centers as the only solution.

"We don't need just 2,000 jobs for young people this summer," said Tom Moffett, a board member for Kentucky's Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression. "We need 5,000 to 20,000 jobs for young people this summer!"

Alliance members have offered few specifics as to what type jobs, who should create them, and who would foot the bill. But educator and dance instructor Harlina Churn-Diallo has challenged the Arts community to step-up.

"The poets must come out," she said at a news conference Tuesday. "The dancers, the painters, the musicians,the rappers. They must come out and give the positive solutions to our children."

The Alliance is putting together forums to give teenagers a voice, chairperson Kathleen Parks said.

"We would be fooling ourselves if we believe that more cameras, more police and targeting all youth of color in the downtown through the use of profiling, are solutions," Parks read from a statement. "This situation calls on us to use the principles of restorative justice, where those responsible are held accountable, but remain engaged within a supportive community, and are given opportunities to make redress to the victims."

Parks declined to offer examples of consequences, or who those responsible for mob violence would compensate their victims.

Back at Newburg Community Center, Fern Creek High School junior Devonzo Summers plans to be a sound engineer for a relative's recording studio this summer.

"I'm not gonna be here most of the time," he said. "Some of it's for pay. But I want the experience."

White has put in applications to Kentucky Kingdom. "I guess, monitoring roller-coasters," he laughed. Cooking at McDonald's is his backup plan.

Summers believes it's all about making your own breaks.

"I can't be like everybody else out here," he said. "I wanna be different."

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