HELL CAME TO PORT RICHMOND
By Patty-Pat Kozlowski
There comes a time when you have a “Popeye Moment”. When the straw that breaks the camel’s back finally makes you blow your top and scream-“That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.”
Aye, aye,aye, aye. I’m strong to the finish, cause I eats me spinach. This was my Popeye moment and I am not apologizing for my emotions and raw passions.
It was late Friday Night when young parents Kim and Mark LaVelle put their twin baby boys down for the night. In his free time, Mark started to work on the upcoming schedules for the upcoming season for the youth athletics leagues he coaches and organizes, he starts putting sports equipment in his trunk.
Suddenly, Mark heard yells and hollers outside and the sounds of dozens of footsteps pounding the pavement.
He put his head out the door to see about two dozen local African-American and Hispanic teenagers running from the local playground, being chased by three carfuls of white teenagers holding pipes, bats and one was brandishing a gun.
“I thought these kids were gonna get killed,” so Lavelle grabbed two of the neighborhood kids who he didn’t know and threw them into his house and quickly bombarded the door, snapping shut the deadbolt lock and screaming to his wife to get in the bedroom and lock the door.
But the deadbolt was no match for the mob of white teenagers who stomped through his front door, screaming that they were going to “kill the black mother fuckers”.
About 60 of them were out on his pavement and the front line stormed into Lavelle’s house creating a flashmob situation in his living room. Lavelle stood his ground as three or four of them started to attack and beat him, yelling racial slurs. One teen swung a pipe at his shoulder, Another round-housed his eye. LaVelle saw one teen, dressed in a red Phillies shirt and cap, reach for a gun in his waistband.
He hears his wife and babies screaming upstairs, the lynch mob of white teens are threatening to bust up his black ass and somewhere Lavelle finds the adrenaline, the strength, the sheer will to overpower them-just like we hear the myths about a mother who lifts a car up to save her baby trapped underneath it because her adrenaline and stress level goes through the roof. The only thing Lavelle could think about was protecting his family.
“All I could see was my body being laid out at St. Anne’s Church and my family closing my casket,” said Lavelle. “I couldn’t let that happen.”
He runs and tackles them, pushing three of them out his front door just as the police arrive on the scene. The kid with the gun runs off but the police find him hiding in the park behind the library.
The two who hit Lavell are also caught and identified, the rest of the mob is pulled over atBelgradeand Allegheny Streets before they could make their getaway.
Later that night, the white mother and a posse of one of the assailants who was arrested shows up at Lavelle’s house. It’s LaVelle’s identification and testimony of her son’s actions that could put him away for a long time.
“We know where you live you black mother fucker. I’ll see you in court….if you make it there.”
Surrounding black neighbors had bricks thrown through their windows. Threats of “we’ll be back” echo through the night.
Complete utter hell. The worst of the worst. Mark and Kim Lavelle and their babies were innocent bystanders one moment and then, in their efforts to try and save two of their own local teens from being violently beaten or maybe even killed, they are thrown into the ultimate nightmare.
But you have not seen this horrific home invasion on any local news station. You didn’t even read about it in the newspaper. The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have not shown up at Lavelle’s house for a rally/protest to offer support, manpower and protection.
The NAACP have not reached out or lambasted the Philadelphia Police Department for not protecting this black family in such a crystal clear case of racism rearing its ugly head. Oprah, where the hell are you?
And why? Why haven’t you heard about this awful crime?
Because dear reader, it turns out that I reversed the race roles in this story to prove a point and tell a horrific story of what happened to a white family in Port Richmond last Friday night.
The Lavelles are whiter than my backside in the dead of winter and so are the two teenagers they were trying to protect.
It was a carful of black and Hispanic teenagers brandishing pipes, bats and guns that drove into Port Richmond looking to fight. It was those same black and Hispanic teenagers who chased the group of white teens from the playground when Lavelle stuck his head out his front door and grabbed two white kids running for their lives. It was black and Hispanic teenagers who tore LaVelle’s door off its hinges and booted his front door down screaming that they were going to kill those white mother fuckers.
It was the black and Hispanic teenagers that swooped into his living room and beat him with a pipe, and almost pulled the gun before Lavelle acted on a sheer act of a miracle and pushed them out of the house to protect his young wife and twin babies.
And later on that night, it was a black mother that showed up at Lavelle’s house to threaten his life, calling him a white mother fucker with you in a case of text book witness and racial intimidation. And yes, a white neighbor of Lavelle got a brick thrown through their window too.
Do you know what Lavelle told me the news media said to him when he called them to help and get this story out? “It wasn’t newsworthy and home invasions happen all the time. And they were too busy covering 9/11 memorials.”
I’m wondering if they would hop into their news vans and helicopters to be the first to get the sensational exclusive scoop on the racist white people of Port Richmond attacking a black family.
But when I tell the story of what happened to the “white” Mark Lavelle why does it not incite the kind of coverage and attention if Lavelle was black? You can’t play the race card if you’re holding a losing hand.
“There is no such thing as reverse racism,” Lavelle told me after the attacks. “It’s racism period.” When LaVelle saw two local white teenagers running for their lives being chased by the black mob he said to himself, “It’s Sean Daily all over again.”
In 1988, Sean Daily was a white Port Richmond teenager who was the all American kid. He played baseball for the Port Richmond Tigers, he stocked milk and eggs at the corner store and he was going to a carnival on the night in May of 1988 when a carload of Hispanics went looking to even a score from a fight with a white guy the night before.
They pounced on the first white boy they could find in Port Richmond, beating him to almost death with bats. Daily tried to climb under a parked car to stop the beating but the monsters grabbed him by the ankles, dragged him into the street and shot him in the back.
And that’s exactly what ran through LaVelle’s mind when he saw those kids running for their lives. “We’re gonna have another Sean Daily on our hands.”
Now you and I know the white teenagers fromRichmondwere not simply standing on the corner selling Girl Scout cookies and collecting canned goods for the hungry. But you and I also know the days of the good old fashioned fist fight are up in heaven with the pay phone, VHS tape and New Coke.
And no matter what color you are, when you read the story of Mark Lavelle and picture his wife hearing through the locked bedroom door her husband being attacked as her baby boys screamed for their daddy-the only color you should be seeing is red.
Red because Kim and the kids packed up and left their home, in fear of their lives. Mark is guarding his house in fear of firebombing, more broken windows or worse. But I guess this isn’t worthy of front, back or buried in the middle page news.
And the ironic part about his whole horrific event is that if you know Lavelle, you know just how much he gives back to youth in the community-no matter what color they are. Peg McCook Scholarships are colorblind, in some years 12 of the 14 given out were to minority students. He buys and donates cases of water and Gatorade to teams like the Frankford Chargers, the players see him coming and call him “Mr. Mark”. He coaches the Tigers, helps kids learn the basics of football, soccer-the list goes on and on.
Lavelle is asking all the youth in the community to keep the peace. He wants no retaliation. Lavelle believes that this needs to be handled by the authorities. “I trust the authorities, but they need to provide protection to the community. I am relying on the authorities.” Lavelle believes strongly, now and even before this incident, that there needs to be a police presence at Stokley. He and many other members of the community are looking for that presence.
In speaking with The Spirit, Captain Thomas Davidson of the 24th Police District says that security measures are being taken. “We already have increased police presence in the Stokley Playground area as well as atCampbell Square.” Regarding the incident on Friday and Saturday, the Captain said that they “are working to make sure that justice is served.”
Where does he turn?
Lavelle wants to know what services are available to him as a victim of a hate crime. What protection will he receive? Who will replace his door and windows?
His message to all those kids who are outraged at this incident and want to protect him: “Please do not become vigilantes and think that you should go out and take matters in your own hands. Do not retaliate. That will not solve a thing. It will only cause you to be arrested and that is senseless. You will be hurting someone’s son, brother. There is no good that will ever come out of retaliation,” expressed a very passionate Lavelle. “The community needs to work together with the authorities to be sure that we get the protection we need.”
Peace is what Lavelle wants – for his family and his community.
So how can we help?
The community can come together and help the Lavelle family. Their door is busted; windows have been broken. We need a contractor to step up and offer services to assist with replacing the door; perhaps a donation of the door itself from one of our businesses in the area; a security system installed at his home so that he and his family can feel the safety and security which they deserve to feel in their own home. If you would like to help or know of someone that can help, please call The Spirit at 215-423-6246. Together, we can help the Lavelle family and show them that the community does stick together and take care of each other. After all, Mark Lavelle, has been taken care of the community for a long time.