There is one, and only one, thing in modern society more hideous than crime — namely, repressive justice. — Simone Weil
Shockoe Bottom’s third club-land killing in 18 months — and let us now return our attention to the 18th Street corridor.
The downtown blame game has recommenced.
While the issue mostly has been lying dormant for months, this last killing has brought back the cacophony of shouts and ideas for reformation, blamers and apologists, defenders of the clubs and the people who point toward the clubs as the real perpetrators.
But are we just headed down an increasingly restrictive road with tighter crackdowns and heavier hands — a show of force that doesn’t seem to work in the first place?
Three killings spanning 18 months in a three-block radius doesn’t exactly put us on par with Ciudad Juárez, but it isn’t a tally that anyone in Richmond is proud of.
You can argue many sides and champion a variety of ideas — more cops, fewer cops, more plainclothes officers, fewer clubs, not the clubs’ fault, totally the clubs’ fault, urban youth running amuck, isolated incidents by people from Petersburg — the list goes on.
The elephant in the room is that the sides seem to be divided directly in accordance with race. It’s unfortunate, and neither side will openly acknowledge it, but it’s as clear as night and day.
There’s room for urban nightclubs and a thriving — safe — downtown scene, and there has to be a happy medium here. It’s just that the answer continues to elude everyone. Although this time around, there seems to be more rational thought and teamwork between the city, clubs, residents and business owners. No one wants to see more bloodshed.
The fear is that with another killing, downtown may well become its own separate entity — a police state within a city — a cordoned-off Sodom, a sort of Orwellian dystopia where anyone on the streets after 2 a.m. will be presumed guilty.
Look at it this way: Fewer police could mean that the evildoers would run roughshod, but it also would make downtown seem less like Bosnia and more like an entertainment destination. People might relax without the oppressiveness of 50 cops breathing down their necks, ready to go all Birmingham-style water hose on a crowded street corner.
More police presence could mean more safety, but it also brings more flashing red and blues, which no business or property owner wants to see. It also gives many innocent and law-abiding kids — who regularly aren’t a problem — more reason to believe that they’re being targeted, which in turn creates an atmosphere of unrest between civilian and lawman. See the “repressive justice” quote above.
These killings happened upon the free will of isolated individuals, and there was little anyone could’ve done to stop what transpired on those three nights. It wasn’t the club’s fault, not the city’s and not the urban element that so many have been quick to blame. And throwing more cops into the chaos and severely limiting an individual’s rights won’t be what saves the Bottom.
Sadly though, there seem to be very few other options. After this last murder, Mayor Dwight Jones declared a “zero-tolerance policy on crime in the Bottom.”
Thank God. I thought his previous “slightly tolerant policy on crime” was a little soft.
Slutty Pumpkin Day
It’s that time of year again. Fellas, break out the scrubs and dust off those classic OB-GYN nametags. Watch the females melt, you stud.
Ladies, this is the one time of year when it’s perfectly acceptable to dress as a promiscuous tramp. Think slutty nurse, naughty cop, Mary-Kay-Letourneau-inspired teacher, wanton nun, full-on prostitute, Casey Anthony carrying around a bloody Cabbage Patch Kid, etc. Halloween brings out the most tasteful in us all. So get creative with it! And whatever you do, do not keep it classy.
For those of you who happen to have balls the size of grapefruits, you could get a realistic bullet wound painted on and go clubbing in Shockoe Bottom. When the real gunshots begin, the shooter might think he’s already hit you and will cease firing in your direction.
Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback tweets @Jackgoesforth and can be heard weekday mornings from 6-9 on 103.7 The River. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.