, that a black mob yelled, “We’re gonna kill all the white people. This is our neighborhood.” But the story doesn’t question the rest of Wilkinson’s report; in fact it confirms from other witnesses that the black mob in a show of force blocked traffic, ran onto yards and porches, and generally sought to intimidate people in the neighborhood by sending the message that this was a black area that belongs to blacks.
Some claim reports of racist Peoria mob are exaggerated
Account of group walking through West Bluff captures national attention
Allegations of racist threats and mob-style intimidation in a West Bluff neighborhood Friday captured national attention over the weekend, but some say the claims were exaggerated.
A group of 50 or so young people was walking down Thrush Avenue toward Sheridan Road about 10:50 p.m. Friday, concerning some residents.
Paul Wilkinson, who has lived on Sheridan for 11 years, says the group was blocking four lanes of traffic, fighting and yelling racist comments at neighbors.
“They were yelling ‘We’re gonna kill all the white people. This is our neighborhood,’” Wilkinson, 45, said.
He emailed his account of the incident to several City Council members and one local blogger. The report at The Peoria Chronicle website was quickly picked up by dozens of other sites, including the widely read online news site The Drudge Report with the headline “Pandemonium in Peoria: Mob yells ‘Kill all white people.’”
Some residents, unaware of the media attention, confirmed Sunday there was a crowd in the street Friday, but said that race was not involved. A police report on the incident does not even mention the word race.
Police responded to Thrush on Friday night on a report of fireworks and fighting but found neither of those activities occurring, a police report stated. The group dispersed in multiple directions when an officer arrived. No one was arrested.
Khalid Davis, who lives on Thrush, said the group blocked a few cars but was very orderly. He witnessed no fights and called the racist allegations a “heck of an exaggeration.”
“If I heard them screaming any such thing, I would have called police immediately,” said Davis, 62.
Wilkinson, the president of the Altamont Park Neighborhood Association, said Sunday the neighborhood has seen its share of problems with drugs and guns in his 11 years there, but the problems have visibly increased as of late. He said police recommended residents stay inside and keep their doors locked.
The effects of the allegations were evident in the neighborhood Sunday. A police nuisance abatement truck called the Armadillo, outfitted with cameras, was parked on the side of Thrush.
Peoria City Councilwoman Barbara Van Auken said Sunday she is outraged by Wilkinson’s allegations.
Van Auken, who has known Wilkinson for six years, said he’s had a history of “wildly exaggerating” reports, many of them involving race. And police are well aware of it.
“We have some very gullible new council members who were dumb enough to believe him,” she said, declining to name names.
Wilkinson said he met with Councilwoman Beth Akeson following his email and spoke to Councilman Chuck Weaver over the weekend. Weaver told the Journal Star he planned to meet with the mayor about the incident.
Van Auken said there are few, if any, racial tensions in the neighborhood where the incident occurred.
“It’s a national embarrassment now,” she said.
Mayor Jim Ardis was unaware Sunday evening of the national attention the issue had caused. He called it “concerning” but said he did not think Peoria was unique when it came to such incidents. [LA replies: Cool. If such incidents are taking place in other cities as well, then there’s nothing to worry about, because the only thing that worries Ardis is whether Peoria is worse than other places, not whether blacks in Peoria and elsewhere in the U.S. are attacking and intimidating whites.]
Ardis said he wasn’t sure to what extent the reports were accurate.
“Not knowing all the details, it’s surprising that it’s caught national attention,” he said.
In the meantime, police have increased patrols in the area, and Ardis, who is out of town, expects more reports on the incident to be available when he returns Wednesday.
Kenny Rogers, who has lived on Sheridan for 10 years, called police Friday after he saw the group “hollering” and stopping traffic on the street. He did not hear anyone yell that they wanted to kill white people.
Rogers says the crowd was running wildly around yards and porches. It was the largest Rogers, 38, had ever seen in the neighborhood.
“They were doing a show of force,” he said, “to show everybody, ‘Hey, this is their hood.’”