When a group of mostly black teenagers vandalized a Jewish-owned Crown Heights deli on Saturday night, coverage of the incident went to such extremes that one local site — in a wildly sensational headline –compared it to the looting in Ferguson. UPDATE: ANIMAL reached out to the NYPD to ask if this incident was a hate crime and a spokesman responded: “The investigation is ongoing and that determination has not been made at this time.”
The crowd of kids — that was estimated to be as large as 75 but certainly looked to more like half that size — reportedly vandalized parked cars and school buses before turning its attention to the Gourmet Butcher deli, where video footage captured a few of the teens overturning some items and shelves in the entryway of the store but doing little else.
Yet, reaction has been at times, alarmist, and at others, just plain racist. Frontpagemag.com’s headline, “Ferguson Comes To New York As Mob Trashes Jewish Store.” Other outlets have also run unconfirmed allegations that one of the store workers was assaulted.
The owner, Yanki Klein, told crownheights.info that he’s had problems before, but he also classified what happened this weekend as “minor.” He mentioned past issues with kids yelling epithets, though didn’t say whether they did so on Saturday night.
These kinds of kids come by my store and yell ‘heil hitler,’ or steal things that are on shelves near the door.
A man named Dan who is a manager at the deli told ANIMAL on Monday night that while he wasn’t there when it happened, nothing was stolen.
“After a situation like this happens, you kind of get worried,” he said, “You don’t know what to do. Should I close earlier, put gates [up]?
“[The owner] was shocked that kids walked in and wanted to knock down things. They didn’t come to steal. I assume it’s one of those games, it’s the new Knockout.”
So was it anything more than a group of teens hazing a local business owner? Yet online reaction has, not suprisingly, been unsparing. Perhaps the most blatant display of outright racism is — unsurprisingly — in the comments section of neighborhood site, crownheights.info, which was the first to report the incident. Whether its related or not, Crown Heights has a long history of tension between Jewish residents and blacks. But a sampling of some of them read like from a manual on how to write racist internet comments: