VOL. 129 | NO. 174 | Monday, September 8, 2014
Wharton Urges Parental Responsiblity for Poplar Plaza Attack
By Bill Dries
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. says the parents of the teenagers who attacked, beat and injured three people on the parking lot of the Poplar Plaza Kroger supermarket in East Memphis should bring their children in to authorities immediately.
Wharton reacted Sunday, Sept. 7, hours after a YouTube video of the mob attack Saturday night went viral.
“I hope nobody will try to use as an excuse – well, the children need something to do,” Wharton said. “We’re not going to accept that they didn’t have anything to do, so they went out and formed a mob. That dog will not hunt in Memphis, Tenn.”
Wharton spoke outside the Benjamin Hooks Central Library, near the Poplar Plaza shopping center. The library is where Wharton held a youth crime and violence forum last week that drew a standing room only crowd and an outline of efforts to provide more activities and more jobs for teenagers and young adults.
“Every time we need summer jobs, the first person we call are the folks over at Kroger’s. Thirty-five people, many of them young folks, working in CiCi’s Pizza there,” Wharton said. “So the very places that we could get jobs for young people, ironically, are the ones who are threatened by this kind of conduct. It simply cannot be tolerated.”
Wharton said he talked Sunday with Kroger executives, the owners of the shopping center and the owner of the pizza parlor where the teens congregated before the attack.
“I had the same message to all of them. We apologize for this,” he said. “This should not be the cost of doing business in a city as great as Memphis, Tenn. They expressed confidence in the city, in the Memphis Police Department… They are working with the MPD right now.”
Wharton and Memphis Police director Toney Armstrong encouraged parents to take responsibility for the actions of their children who were involved or who witnessed the beatings.
“We need to hear from you and it probably would be a little bit better for you if we heard from you first without us going through an intensive investigation and have to find you,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong and Wharton were critical of parents for dropping off teenagers unsupervised.
“The day of just dropping your kids off and not being accountable for your kids has to end. It has to,” Armstrong said. “We can do a lot but we can’t do everything. And I certainly cannot raise every single kid.”
Wharton also said he can understand a parent not knowing what happened and finding out about it later.
“I wonder when are some of them are going to say, ‘I just saw you on television. Get in the car. We are going Downtown so you can be held accountable,’” Wharton said. “Once you do find out, that’s the measures of good parenting. Any parent who tells you that they know everything their children do when they are out of sight – they’d better get a reality check. … Parenting is not only preventing. Parenting is accepting responsibility and making amends once you do something wrong.”