Posted on July 1, 2011

“Flash Mob” Fall-Out: A Multiple-Perspective Account of the North Philly Roving Mob Attack

Emily Guendelsberger, A.V. Club (Philadelphia), July 1, 2011

My leg is killing me right now–a “flash mob” beat the hell out of my friends and me and broke my tibia; I’m getting it surgically screwed back together tomorrow afternoon–they’re giving me a TSA card! {snip}


So what happened?

At around 9:30, nine friends, my boyfriend, and I left our house at 15th and Green to go to another friend’s house. Two lagged behind to get in a car and drive down, nine walked down Green Street towards Broad to get on the subway. You could hear a big ruckus around the corner, but couldn’t see any of the kids yet. We hit the corner at the same time as the first big group of maybe 40-50 kids, and a couple girls in that group screamed that we needed to run away. I kind of thought they were making fun of us at first, but a couple seconds later, a kid in a sweatshirt came running out of the crowd and cold-cocked the closest male from our group right in the face. That friend, showing kind of amazing restraint, looked very pissed but managed not to swing back (and thank God–but more on that in a minute); he just turned around and started walking away. So did most of us. And this surge of boys came running after us.

They clearly didn’t want to rob us; they wanted to beat up the men in our group. I was barely a target; I think I was the only girl in the group to get my ass kicked because I tried to join a bunch of not-into-how-this-night-was-going girls from the mob who were doing this human-shield thing to prevent their friends from going after my friends. Yes, brilliant, I’m aware. {snip}

That brilliant plan obviously didn’t work, and I ended up marooned in the middle of this hostile group of kids as maybe 20-30 guys ran down the street after my friends. Someone behind me grabbed my purse, I automatically yanked back on it; someone punched me in the face, I tried to run, but twisted my leg and hit my head when I fell, then ended up clutching my purse in the fetal position and screaming as I got hit a bunch more times.

{snip} When I tried to stand on my right leg, there was this very clear, nasty “snap, crackle, pop,” and I fell back over screaming some more. Thankfully, the cops rolled up around then.


Based on what I heard from the cops, the term “flash mob” is especially out of place in our attack: The kids who jumped us (my high-school-teacher friend pegged them at around 13-16 years old) were not gathered together to wreak havoc via some inane Twitter call of “Let’s go wreck Whitey!” Rather, they had apparently wandered south on Broad from a festival on Susquehanna. That’s just a mob. If the attack had been organized on Twitter, the call to arms would probably have been “Let’s go wreck everything!” This attack has spurred a lot of really ugly talk about blacks targeting whites. Although I guess it’s a reasonable assumption that a white girl would have exclusively white friends, my brown boyfriend is getting increasingly annoyed about how the victims are being automatically classified as white–plus, the mob, in a less-publicized hit at Fairmount and Broad right before us, beat up a group of two women in headscarves and a Latino man whom we met in the hospital later. I am reasonably confident that we were just there.


Closing thoughts

First: I’ve heard a lot of armchair quarterbacking about what we should have done, especially from people who are into concealed-carry and Bernie Goetz. {snip} Suggesting that shooting a gun into a crowd of crazed, violent teenagers would have somehow made them less crazed or violent I think means that you are drawing on imagination rather than memory. Just let me assure you: I was there. It wouldn’t have been a good scene.

Second: A lot of people have posted comments with the classic “I’m not racist, but…” lead-in asking why the media is “scared” or “too politically correct” to report that all of the attackers were black and all of the victims were white. Well, you heard it here first: My boyfriend, whose forehead has an exact, terrifying imprint of a tennis-shoe sole on it, is not white, and is tired of people assuming he’s white because they want to see this as some sort of race war. And as I mentioned earlier, several other victims of this mob were also non-whites.

Yes, all of the kids I saw come after us were black.


Will I probably be twitchy around large groups of young black men for a while? Yes. Does that substantiate the creepy racist bullshit that this incident seems to have attracted? No.

The negativity has been disheartening. From the evil kids who put me in the hospital, and who thought it would be fun or funny to beat the shit out of my friends to the people from Drudge, gleefully wondering how “the little white lib feels now,” the experience has been a lesson in the depths humanity can fall to.