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Obama administration anti-violence proposals fail to impress Fenger students

by Paul Schott
Oct 07, 2009

Far from the flash of cameras and crush of reporters at City Hall, Fenger High School students reacted indifferently today to proposals by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to address youth violence.

“That ain’t gonna do nothing,” scoffed Fenger sophomore Damien Coleman, when asked about the impact of Holder and Duncan’s visit.

Standing next to Coleman on the corner of South Wallace and West 113rd St., junior Pierre Davis nodded his head.

“We need real help," he said. "We need jobs."

Indeed every student interviewed outside of Fenger expressed deep pessimism that any institutions—City Hall, their school, the police—can do anything meaningful to ensure their safety.

Many students were especially critical of the police, alleging that officers often failed to intervene to stop fights. And when law enforcement did react to mounting tensions on the street, Fenger pupils said it was usually belated.

Kenya Sherman, a sophomore, said she noticed an increased police presence on the streets only after the death of Derrion Albert.

“They should’ve been out there before,” she said.

Even older residents of the Shelton Heights area where Fenger is located shared the students’ disillusionment. Willie Floyd, who does local youth outreach, told the students: “The police don’t care about y’all. City Hall doesn’t care about y’all.”

As the students chatted among themselves, squad cars periodically rolled by. The students and officers communicated not with words, but with glares.

“They’re not here to protect and serve," said Coleman. "They’re here to hurt and serve.”