Racial Tensions Exposed in Harrisburg’s Midtown Neighborhood After Kipona’s Festival Vandalism

On Friday night, September 5, a group of around 100 unruly teenagers left the Labor Day Weekend Kiponas Festival along Riverfront Park in Harrisburg and headed up Front St towards Midtown, Harrisburg.  The group of teenagers vandalized a handful of cars, a gas station mini-mart and one ended up shooting himself in the leg when a gun went off.  The group of teenagers that went through the Midtown neighborhoods were predominantly African American, and the social media responses to the incident shows a cross-section to the racial tensions in the city’s Midtown Section.

Before the event occurred, I happened to join the social media network Nextdoor because it was recommended to me a couple of days prior to the incident.  After I joined the network, a post “Mob a Black Youths” was published describing something someone witnessed a couple of blocks away from where I am living, and the commenter stated:

Mob of black youths running down 1100 block of N Front St., just north of Forster St. around 9:15. They banged on our door & scared the life out of me. I went to the door & there was over one hundred of them. They were knocking down road horses & such as they passed. We called 911 but never saw any police. Be alert for knocked over stuff.

Later on in the thread, an article linked to Pennlive’s description of the group, “a mob of youths,” was not good enough for some in the thread, and the article was criticized for not pointing out that the teenagers were black.  This is where the thread spirals from here.  Some of the fallout from the argument has at least one person stating that they’re leaving the app altogether because of the racist comments that have been recently posted in the community.

One questions if the kids came from the 3-on-3 basketball tournament that happened earlier in the day, which ended hours earlier, and others stand up for the original commenter for precisely describing those who did it.  In particular one person described it as not a race issue, but as a “parenting issue.”  A back and forth ensure with lots of rhetorical questions that beat around the race issue.

In a the Midtown Harrisburg Facebook group, one poster blamed the police chief because the police at the festival allowed to the group to disperse without anyone following them, which I agree with, but then regular tropes about the lack of parenting are brought up.  One person mockingly brought up a parenting issue and suggested that if you “cant control [sic] them” then you should “cage them in the cellar like animals,” because “chances are that some of the parents actually encourage this stuff.”

I grew up in the Juniata section of Philadelphia, used to walk from my house on H and Hunting Park Ave to the Erie Torresdale station on the Blue Line or take a bus to some of that regions more notorious drug dens to catch the El to go to high school.  I moved to Harrisburg’s Midtown neighborhood in January and not once have I felt threatened.  There have been plenty of nights where I have left a bar, party or walking with friends from the area of the Capitol up through various parts of Midtown or Uptown and I have been fine.

If there is one thing that is most surprising about this whole episode, it is the fact that people voiced their concerns with very little anonymity.  This wasn’t the comments section on Pennlive, which some believed did a better job at reporting about the incident than the actual news organization, but this acts as a cross-section in a particular moment in time because it was done on two social media spaces that are meant to spark a dialogue or conversation with your neighbors – the literal existence of Nextdoor – or your peers on Facebook. If that is the case and something like this happens again, it would be interesting to see how these spaces interact with each other because there may very well be some underlying racial tensions in the Midtown Neighborhoods.

 

About Sean Kitchen 584 Articles
Assistant Editor of the Raging Chicken Press and living in Harrisburg pursuing journalistic opportunities. You can send tips to SeanKitchen@RagingChickenPress.org and reach me on twitter at @RCPress_Sean!
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4 Comments on Racial Tensions Exposed in Harrisburg’s Midtown Neighborhood After Kipona’s Festival Vandalism

  1. By Miriam Webster’s definition it was a mob and those kids basically ran amuck. A mob of 100 kids of any color is trouble waiting to happen. One was armed and we are all lucky that he didn’t kill himself or someone else.
    Some people do and say some stupid things, but I would like to give everyone the benefit of doubt during what was undoubtedly a scary situation.

  2. This is political correctness gone insane. I am from a multi-racial family (I’m mixed myself) who were all born and raised in the city of Harrisburg. If someone is reporting an account of what happened, ethnicity is a useful descriptor – or are we pretending that we can’t see ethnicity now? If it was maliciously racist or prejudiced that would be one thing- but that’s not what happened from your quote of the post.

    And yeah, as someone who grew up in this neighborhood and isn’t moving in to gentrify it, there are parenting issues at play in mid-town Harrisburg.

  3. Yah, the Nextdoor social site has some grave issues with people who have all too much of a tendency to jump to conclusions, judge, and decide that there are issues because the world around them doesn’t meet their expectations. I’m another who is no longer active because of the disgusting racial and socio-economic bent that seems to pervade the site. I will be happy to elaborate on my basis for this post should anyone be interested.

  4. I happen to live in the neighborhood in question where the groups of youths were running amok. When I heard the (what appeared to be) remnants of the group in question moving up Second Street, I was shocked to see a group of four or five young (teenage? early 20’s?) women chatting quite loudly and excitedly about what had happened down the street, and they had with them a small toddler, trailing behind them, trying to keep up. This was after 10 pm, mind you. THAT in and of itself is a parenting issue, having a small child out and about at that hour, and considering the near-adults in the group were discussing the melee which happened down the street, made that situation all the worse in my eyes, because it meant, to me, that the small child was near enough to the melee that it quite possibly could have been hurt.
    The fact that the video footage from the store which was robbed shows pretty much all African-American youths, mostly male, committing the crime against the store owners, who are not white nor African-American, proves to me only that the teens were mostly African-American, and they saw an opportunity to knock over a business and commit a crime, not that it was racially motivated, specifically.
    I read the comments in the Nextdoor website, and, honestly, can understand my neighbors’ concern for their own welfare, considering the group of people really could have been considered a mob, and who’s to say they wouldn’t suddenly decide to kick down somebody’s door and invade a home?
    I agree with Nikki, above, that the comments were merely used as a descriptor that night and in the days following, NOT because they were motivated to be racist about the situation. Perhaps there are other comments that may have proven some of those neighbors to be racist in some way, but I didn’t see that in regard to that situation itself alone.

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