Even before it opened, I’ve been worried about something awful happening to Railroad Park. Every time I go there, I think it’s one of the most beautiful things that’s come along since I’ve lived in this city, but living in Birmingham can leave you feeling like an orphan that’s finally been adopted — when something good happens, you’re always waiting for something to take it away.
People still talk about the kidnapping and murder blamed for crippling the Morris Avenue redevelopment, and when Railroad Park opened, I wasn’t the first and was nowhere near the last to wonder aloud if something awful like that could similarly break the community enthusiasm for Railroad Park.
That has yet to be determined, but the news Sunday night was not good. Someone fired shots at or near the park, depending on which story you believe. Regardless, there had been discipline issues earlier in the afternoon, with fights breaking out and police called. Four people were arrested.
But what’s got me scared is the video.
Whenever I hear people talking about gangs, I tend to be a bit incredulous. One man’s suspect is another man’s innocent bystander. Just ask Trayvon Martin. And when I heard about the Easter Sunday trouble at Railroad Park and read posts on Facebook from people who shied away that night because they got a bad vibe —- well, I took it with a grain of salt.
Until I saw the video, or to be accurate, the traces of the video still left on YouTube. The video has been removed because it violated YouTube’s terms of service.
But the title was still there: “LVP, ATO, BLOCK BOYS Take Ova At Railroad Park.”
I’ve seen this sort of thing before.
In September 2007, three teenagers and a 21-year-old were shot at Legion Field following a high school football game there. At the time, the city police denied there was a gang problem. But Birmingham News columnist John Archibald did a little digging and discovered different. It didn’t take much –just Google. The criminal masterminds has been documenting their exploits on a social media network called Bebo, posting videos, maps of territory, etc.
At the time, LVP, Lench Mob and ATO were among the most active on Bebo, along with another group called 400Block. Today, All of them seem to have migrated to YouTube.
Are they the same people? Probably not. Five years is a long time. Same gangs? Definitely. Same problem? Absolutely.
And the city needs to address it. Nobody got killed Sunday. It’s up to Birmingham to make sure no one ever does.