Remember how, in 2003, Harpers editor Bill Wasik invented the concept of the flash mob—a rather arbitrary Internet-organized gathering of a bunch of people in a particular place at a particular time? Philadelphia has apparently been experience a rash of Twitter-based teen flash mobs with one goal: #CHAOS. This has freaked out business owners and produced such headlines as this, in The Philadelphia Daily News: "Another Flash Mob Rocks South Street: In the 'Tsunami,' chants of 'Burn the City!'". According to the Daily News, Business owners were terrified on Saturday by teens drawn to their streets by Twitter:
Inspired by Twitter messages to "come to South Street," police say hundreds - business owners say thousands - of young teens stampeded down South Street in waves, jumping on top of cars, knocking over pedestrians and fighting and cursing.
"It was like a tsunami wave," said a store employee.
"The cops were overwhelmed," said a store manager.
The South Street business owners called on Nutter to impose a curfew of 10 p.m. or earlier after frightened managers locked their doors, only allowing customers inside.
Yee Chau, manager of eModa, a clothing store, on South near 3rd, said "It was total mayhem. Kids were out of control. They were wall-to-wall. You couldn't see the sidewalks." One armed owner, who showed the Daily News his gun permit, protected his business by standing outside with five assistants.
police fanned out at either 2nd or 3rd Street and gradually moved the crowds west on South ot Broad. Kids started running at top speed, with some going around the block, and coming up behind the cops.
on South near 6th, Olympia Pizza II employee Seth Kaufman, 20, was in front of the pizza shop, trying to prevent kids from coming inside to fight with young customers who were eating.
As the crowd pushed the door to get inside, Kaufman pushed back. The crowd pushed again, and inside, the owners, 66-year-old Peter Psihogios, his wife, Harula, 58, and son Paul, 30, were pushing back on the store's double glass doors to keep them shut.
Numerous South Street residents reported hearing what they thought were gunshots about 11:15 p.m. around 13th Street south of South but police could not confirm it.
The flash mob was completely dispersed.
Interestingly, judging solely from the pictures, video, and first-hand accounts (the mob was chanting "Black boys!" according to one pizza shop owner) this particular flash mob was primarily African-American. White flash mobs: Goofy pillow fights and gentle, blog-based derision. Black flash mobs: Panicky pizza shop owners and blow-by-blow reports of chaos. Does this say something important about Society, Race and/or the Media? (This (white) opinion writer suggests a previous Philadelphia mob was inspired by the "blatant prejudice" of business owners.) In fact even our own uncomfortableness pointing out the race thing probably hints at some interesting issues of class and its intersection with technology. (For example: Please, God, let this be not another "Black People Twitter.") But it is way too late to get into this, so let's just say no?