Saturday, July 25, 2009

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Council Member Don Samuels Confronts Gang Activity (Without His Shoes On!)

Photos, video by John Hoff. 

This happened the day before yesterday,  on a part of Hillside Ave. N. which has become peaceful, prosperous and revitalized except for a few crappy vacant houses, one of which is owned by slumord Mahmood Khan. I was in the backyard of Michael "Kip" Browne, the Chairman of the Jordan Area Community Council, (JACC) drinking some white wine when out in the street there was a hell of a hullaballoo.

The white wine was affordable, yet pleasant, quite dry. It's one of my friend's favorites and has a pretty peacock on the label, which is how she quickly and easily locates it on the wine rack at BLO.

But, oh, back to the incident out in the street.

Six young men in long, plain white T-shirts, some obviously minors and out after curfew, were marching up Hillside Ave. N. and shouting some kind of loud, rowdy song in unison, heavy on the f-word. The video at the bottom of this post captures the first minute or so of the incident, but only has audio since it was shot under less-than-ideal conditions. You can hear the young men shouting and--I want to stress this--they are A BLOCK AWAY and can be plainly heard. The other people you hear shouting were right next to the camera. So--as a police officer pointed out--the gang members must have been really loud, if the camera picked up the audio.

As we poured out to the sidewalk to look...

...some of the young men shouted their gang membership and threw hand signs. This was a deliberate and calculated demonstration of gang affiliation on a quiet residential street, designed to terrify citizens in their own homes. But the citizens were NOT terrified. Highly-involved, "pro-city revitalizers" like Kip Browne have spent years cleaning up this street and making it safe and welcoming. This gang activity was an anomaly. We didn't have reason to be afraid, because this was OUR STREET and WE BELONG HERE, not the gang members. 

"911!" one resident shouted at the retreating backs of the gang members. Since she was shouting, that made me feel like I had permission to shout, too.

"Keep walking!" I yelled, just like we yell at the skanky hookers on 27th Ave. N. near the Jordan Pond. "Keep walking!"

The police were called. It was Sondra Samuels, the wife of Council Member Don Samuels, who made the 911 call from her house, which is near Kip's house. In a short while, squad cars arrived. The young men had retreated into a residence, reportedly a rental property. When the police pulled up at the property, concerned citizens watched for a while from a distance, then followed as Don Samuels approached the officers. 

"He's their boss," one resident said. "Let Don talk to the police."

Don hadn't taken the time to put his shoes on, and was actually in his black dress socks walking down the sidewalk. So--with both Don and his wife Sondra taking the lead--the police dealt with the gang members (now cowering inside) and the "lady of the house" who let them into her home. The "lady of the house" came out and spoke to us, going into profuse and dramatic apologies, saying she didn't know about what happened before she let the young men inside, it wouldn't happen again, she doesn't let this go on at her house...the usual ex post facto b.s. which tends to get said after the police show up at your rental property and, oh gee, you've let gang members into your home.

The police informed the "lady of the house" that her house was now tagged as gang-affiliated, and the gang intervention unit would be coming by for a little talk. As the police left, the neighbors marched back to their homes and I snapped a picture of Don and Sondra.

Right at the end of the incident, Sondra's younger daughter called, terrified that both her parents were down the street dealing with the angry, shouting gang members. Sondra had the phone on "speaker" and I could hear the little girl's voice, hysterical. Two days later, during Northside Art FLO, Council Member Samuels was giving his daughter a piggyback ride and informed me it took "about 40 minutes" for his daughter to calm down after the scary incident.

But the neighbors beat the gang members. One of the policemen at the scene said the neighborhood had really improved recently and "We're not going to let it go back to the way it was before."


Anonymous said...

Don, is that a skirt you're wearing? It looks comfortable....


Johnny Northside said...

Funny. Those are shorts but the legs are wide, so you can just see the one leg in the "socks" photo, and then you can't see the individual legs in the top photo...however, I was there and I can attest Don was wearing some kind of gray shorts, the kind you might wear when just kicking around your house and not expecting that you'll have to GO OUT IN THE STREET AND DEAL WITH GANG MEMBERS.

Anonymous said...

Sondra needs to start dressing that guy better.... Those shorts do NOT go with the shirt he has on....

What's up with that Sondra?


Johnny Northside said...

I'm sure he dressed HIMSELF. And in a hurry!

Anonymous said...

way to go, Don!
way to go, Hillside Ave!

Anonymous said...

JNS - I was joking w/ Don & Sondra.