Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Adversity is one of the conditions that can bring people together. Or it can do the opposite.

The stress levels are high in Key West. People are dealing with the crap that follows WIlma, and it makes life hard. It can make some people cranky. Or worse.

Yesterday morning, at about 8:40 AM, two of the best people we know in Key West were senselessly attacked by a group, actually a mob, of high school students who were waiting on the porches of the Coffee Plantation, out of the rain, for their bus to arrive. Diane took a sucker punch to the jaw from a 15-year old girl who was in some kind of rage. When Theo went to her aid, he was jumped from behind by several other girls. The boys with them stood by and cheered them on.

It began when Diane, after her morning start up routine, went out on the porch and greeted the girls with a friendly "good morning, girls." Then she asked them to please refrain from being rowdy and using the "f" and "m-f" words because it would turn customers away, the 15-year old said something about "you people just don't want us here". When Diane suggested to the girl that she ought to act more like a young lady, the girl drew back her fist and hit Diane in the jaw.

In the confusion that followed, police let the "kids" board their now-waiting school bus and drive off.

Several things happened during and following the attack that shouldn't have. They'll be followed up on by City authorities in due course.

1 - The initial police response was inadequate and, in my own opinion, it bordered on improper. The Chief of Police was at the Coffee Plantation later in the morning and he has been told what happened, and the opinion of the victims of the attack about what ought to have been done differently.

2 - The girl who made the assault was identified and has been arrested. She will be charged with a misdemeanor assault and battery charge. She threatened Theo with a deadly weapon - a pen - which she said she'd stab him in the neck with if he didn't back down. A fifteen year old girl!

3 - None of the other participants in the attack were identified. Police questioned some or all of the students who boarded the bus at the corner of Whitehead and Petronia. None would admit to any knowledge of the perpetrators, and some would claim that it was Diane who threw the first punch. How ridiculous!

4 - Tuesday afternoon, (as I was enjoying a cup of Key West's finest 100% Colombian coffee), the bus arrived on its return trip. Several of the students -- males -- walked slowly by the front of building and tried hard to look "bad", glaring, swaggering. The same thing happened this morning.

5 - Wednesday morning, several of the "boys" came into the yard laughing about "what happened yesterday". That angered me enough that I walked over to them and told them calmly that their laughter was wrong, that the lady inside was "bad hurt", and she didn't deserve their laughter. Silence from them until I turned away. One behind me -- he was the smallest and looked like the youngest --said, "I'll do whatever I want". Later in the afternoon on Wednesday, as the bus pulled up out front, we could hear the chanting of many of those on board. When they got off, two girls began jumping up and down in the street, pointing at the shop and cursing.

Watchfulness, wariness, and an excess of caution are what are needed now. Every time another incident occurs, no matter how minor it might seem, the police have to be called and a report made. Diane feels let down by the police response. She feels like they are minimizing what happened, calling it "just kid stuff". Well it isn't, and they shouldn't. The job of the police is to prevent crime, to protect citizens from it, and to apprehend criminals.

Theo and Diane are moving the Coffee Shop soon, relocating to Caroline Street as soon as their new location is finished. For now, they want nothing more to be left alone by the students. They intend to press charges against the girl in the hope that she will get some help from the Juvenile Justice system here. They were told that no one else of the group can be charged because There "were no witnesses". That's wrong, there were witnesses, two of them not including Theo and Diane themselves.

There's anger in the streets here. Some "children" aren't being raised to responsibility by their parents and guardians. The result is a wildness that one might expect in Miami, but not here. Not here. I hope that somebody has an idea about what to do about it.


Anonymous said...

I was also in a situation almost the same here in Maryland. Same type circumstances, minding my own business and sucker punched in the face. Beyond the situation itself was the response of a local govt. official at that time who later went on to be the leader of the NAACP(guess who). The quote from his response was "boys will be boys". The person who hit me was on an outing with a program that gives troubled juveniles a last chance before going to jail. Needless to say he ended up getting jail time for battery. But the response from an elected official was unbelievable. I feel for the people involved in your situation having to put up with the looks and verbal abuse everyday.

Anonymous said...

These incidents are the thin end of the wedge when it comes to keeping order on our streets. We cannot let the Police behave as if this sort of behavior is nothing more than high spirits. Only a policy of 'zero tolerance' will suffice. If we do not insist on effective Policing we shall see more of the same on the streets of our island. This is Key West not Miami, lets keep it that way.

jipzeecab said...

In the winter of 1972 we had a riot in the area where the Plantation sits today. It started because of an incident at KWHS where 3 youths from the area attacked a student at the High School and were arrested. The student who was attacked was a 15 year old Muscular Sclerosis victim on crutches. During the riot they burned down the only grocery store in that part of town.

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