Kids Being Kids or … Terrorists? | This Week in Blackness

Kids Being Kids or … Terrorists?

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Kids will be kids … unless we think they’re terrorists. Then they’re definitely terrorists.

I’m sure many of you have heard of Kiera Wilmot by now; she’s the 16-year-old high school student from Florida who was expelled and subsequently arrested on Tuesday for performing an unsupervised chemistry experiment that resulted in a small explosion. The charges?

  • Violating Section 7.05 of the Polk County School District’s Code of Conduct, which mandates that any “student in possession of a bomb (or) explosive device . . . while at a school (or) a school-sponsored activity” will automatically be expelled.

  • F.S.S. 790.115 (1): Possessing or discharging weapons or firearms at a school-sponsored event or school property AND F.S.S. 790.161 (A) Making, possessing, throwing, projecting, placing, or discharging any destructive device, for which she will be tried as an adult.

That’s right, folks … Ms. Wilmot, a student who earns good marks and has no history of disciplinary behavior, a student who’s experiment-gone-awry is so banal that it’s been employed as a comedic trope in a host of teen films across multiple decades, has been accused of being an aspiring bomb maker.

A cursory examination of the incident reveals that the charges are ludicrous, of course. Even the school’s principal appears to agree, at least on the surface. “She made a bad choice. Honestly, I don’t think she meant to ever hurt anyone. She wanted to see what would happen [when the chemicals mixed] and was shocked by what it did. Her mother is shocked, too.”

Yet, the Polk County School Board is refusing to back down, releasing the following statement that same day:

“Anytime a student makes a bad choice it is disappointing to us. Unfortunately, the incident that occurred at Bartow High School yesterday was a serious breach of conduct. In order to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment, we simply must uphold our code of conduct rules. We urge our parents to join us in conveying the message that there are consequences to actions. We will not compromise the safety and security of our students and staff.”

It’s hard not to argue that the severity of the school’s response to what happened isn’t racially motivated given that Ms. Wilmot is black. “I worry about urban kids who don’t tenxd to have access to social capital that advocates for them and gives them a chance after stupid mistakes … Most parents of Black and Brown kids already worry enough that their children risk arrest or harm for walking around in hoodies. Now the same antics that happen at the Maker Faire can get your kid handcuffed,” wrote author DN Lee in an op-ed for Scientific American responding to the incident. She’s right, of course: students of color definitely have a harder time in American educational institutions than white students. But given what happened not twenty-four hours later to Cameron D’Ambrosio of Methuen, Massachusetts, I’m not so sure.

On Wednesday, 18-year-old D’Ambrosio was arrested for allegedly making terroristic threats in a rap song he distributed via text and social media that day. “Killa” Cam — who’s only crime at this point is being a goofy suburban white kid with delusions of hip-hop grandeur — is currently being held on one million dollar bail, and, if convicted, faces up to twenty years in prison.

Yes, you read that right. ONE MILLION in bail. TWENTY YEARS in prison. Excessive much?

D’Ambrosio has been charged with violating Massachusetts General Law chapter 269, section 14, which prohibits the communication of a threat regarding specific weapons like firearms, chemical munitions or other explosives. According to a report on Raw Story, “the state law’s definition of a threat holds that the statement must indicate a weapon capable of causing serious harm or property damage will be used against a specific person or at a specific location.” But given the lack of clarity in the song’s content, which apparently makes vague references to the White House and the Boston Marathon bombing, there is doubt that the statute is being applied correctly.

Consider the following statement, made by Methuen Police Chief Joe Solomon in the Massachusetts publication the Valley Patriot: “I do want to make clear he did not make a specific threat against the school or any particular individuals but he did threaten to kill a bunch of people and specifically mentioned the Boston Marathon and the White House. The threat was disturbing enough for us to act and I think our officers did the right thing.”

Gawker’s response hit the nail on the head, of course: “Acting is one thing, bringing a hooky-playing high-schooler in for questioning to evaluate the seriousness of the threat is another. But arresting the kid, setting his bail at one million dollars, and charging him with terroristic threats? Holy shit.”

A search of D’Ambrosio’s house turned up little to support the terrorism claim, other than a “disturbing satanic photo posted as well as a photo of himself on a ‘Wanted Poster’ that reads ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’,” according to the Valley Patriot. Well, if that’s enough to brand you a terrorist, they should have locked me up back in high school. The Patriot goes on to state that “a quick perusal of his Facebook page shows D’Ambrosio’s unusual interest in gangs, violence and a criminal lifestyle,” yet Gawker reports that his Facebook page “also shows an ‘unusual interest’ in the Pixar movie Monsters University, Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffee & Smoothies, and Adalia Rose, the six-year-old Texas girl with the early aging disease Progeria.” In short, it’s a typical Facebook page of your average goofy, suburban white kid with delusions of hip-hop grandeur. He’s a lot of things, but he’s no terrorist.

This is the school-to-prison pipeline run amok, under the auspices of “fighting terror”. There has been a disturbing trend in recent years of criminally charging children with behavioral problems, rather than working with them to ensure that they get the help they need. Now that’s taken an even more sinister turn.

What do these two cases have in common? Both Wilmot and D’Ambrosio are right around the same age as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect currently in custody for his alleged role in the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the most high-profile terror attack on American soil since 9/11. In the post-bombing terror paradigm, the fact that neither of these kids have remotely the same background as Tsarnaev, a somewhat troubled Chechnyan immigrant who’s older brother had previously been investigated by U.S. intelligence for possible extremist ties, is irrelevant. Rather, it’s more important to engage in knee-jerk national security theatre, in order to appear tough on terror and satiate people’s rampant paranoia. It’s the same twisted logic that demands armed teachers and increased police presence on school campuses, as if all of these things will somehow solve the problem of mass shooters and disaffected youth in America, and our children’s lives and futures are slowly being ruined as a result. A free, comprehensive public education is one of the most radical ideas ever implemented in the United States, but when schools become compounds, and students become potential criminals in the eyes of the faculty, public education has failed them, and it has failed us.

The purpose of terrorism is to sow fear and despair to achieve a political end. If America has reached a point where we’re prepared to imprison our nation’s children in response to their curiosity and desire for self-expression, then guess what? The terrorists have won. We’re just too stubborn to admit it, much like your average teenager.

Randle Aubrey

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6 Comments

  1. Awake Black Woman May 4, 2013 at 7:42 am

    You know what Randle, I’m going to agree and just go on ahead and say that the terrorists have already won.They won the second American society began to buy what W was selling starting somewhere around September 12th, 2001.

    He was selling ignorance, hate, fear and our very own special American Brand of Revenge.

    Many TWiB bloggers have already written about how we were before 9/11 and how we are after. Our society, some eleven years later is profoundly changed, and not for the better.

    Some of you might not remember that bullshit ratcheting up of fear that had far too many Americans running to the hardware store buying up duct tape and I forget whatever else it was, so we could Fight Terrorism At Home. You laugh, but people was out they damn MINDS.

    And the fear, the non-thinking kneejerk response to every little thing is why we have those two kids unfairly charged and on lockdown. These terrorists, these shadowy figures, the monolithic Big Bad – well they are laughing their asses off at us. Just tickled pink.

    I watched in horror in the months after 9/11 as our society began its march toward the hate filled climate of fear that we now live in today. I saw my local Sikh temple defaced, and its congregation threatened. My local 7-11 dude was beaten up in his store and subsequently made to wear a baseball cap instead of his usual turban in fear for his continued safety.

    These ignorant, hate-filled fear-fueled attacks on our own American citizens have not abated, and indeed in the passing years have only increased in frequency and level of violence. Where once there were threats and punches thrown, we have arson and murder.

    Those who deal in terror seek to disrupt societies, keep them on edge, out of balance and most importantly living in a constant state of fear.

    So I say again: they have indeed won, been winning and will keep on winning until we wise up.

    Those of us who are actually international, and have connections beyond our country’s borders will tell you exactly what America and Americans look like to the rest of the world.

    Bunch of cowardly, fearful people, cowering in the dark, clutching their firearms and jumping at every shadow and pop from a plastic bottle cap. Criminalizing our kids, zero tolerance policies and our Prison Industrial Complex all serve to make us a world-wide laughingstock.

    Nicely written piece, Randle and plenty of food for thought.

    • Devans00 July 13, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      Well said and co-sign.

      Unfortunately, the mainstream media ignores those of us who resisted the march to fear and abandonment of common sense after 9-11. MSM loves to imply “everybody” is behind the “protect us from the terrorists” madness.

      I’d rather treat teenagers as young people who make mistakes. They don’t need a criminal record if they don’t hurt anyone. If a white kid in 1972 wouldn’t end up with a rap sheet for doing something wrong, then any 2013 kid should have the same freedom to be a dumb kid.

  2. rikyrah May 6, 2013 at 9:42 am

    From Miranda at POU:

    Kiera Wilmot’s lawyer Larry D. Hardaway was on Joe Madison’s show this morning.

    He said she hasn’t been expelled; she had a 10 day suspension. The state has not formally filed felony charges, and he doesn’t think they will. She’s presently in an alternative school.

    Attorney said she received a 4 page doc from her bio teacher that said (and I’m paraphrasing) that the student have to come up with an experiment on their own to present to the class. Her classmates suggested this particular experiment. She was going to present this experiment to the class, but her friends said she should try it outside first.

    She did not run away when the principal and assistant principal came.

    It wasn’t an explosion; principal said it sounded like a firecracker.

    State attorney has NOT filed charges.

    They’re setting up a defense fund. Madison he will post the info on his Facebook page.

    If you have SiriusXM, Madison’s show repeats at 8pm EST.

  3. Randle Aubrey May 6, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Thanks for the update, @rikyrah! Glad to know that the quick and narly response from the general public on this one got to her before an innocent, curious girl has her life totally trainwrecked. BTW, if you haven’t seen it yet, @awake-black-woman started a change.org petition to lobby for the felony charges to be dropped. Here’s the link:

    https://www.change.org/petitions/bartow-police-dept-drop-felony-charges-against-16-year-old-kiera-wilmot#

    Speaking of @awake-black-woman: you are so on the money with this one, and I love the way you write. TWiB family…give this girl a job, for realz. She’s awesome. :)

  4. Awake Black Woman May 8, 2013 at 12:52 am

    Thanks for the update and info rikyrah! I think this is the link where you can hear the interview, I’m checking it out as I write this:
    https://soundcloud.com/siriusxmentertainment/atty-larry-hardaway-joe-madison

    It looked like from the interview with Kiera’s lawyer that I read recently, that things were going in that direction so yay!

    Hey Randle :)
    I was merely passing along that petition link. I didn’t start it, but whoever did, beat me out by minutes I can tell you. I wasn’t feeling it lol

    Thanks for the kudos too *blushes* I write what I feel.

  5. Randle Aubrey May 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    My new adherence to docket-free journalism demands that I give you the credit for the petition @awake-black-woman. Facts, schmacts! Who the hell needs ‘em anyway? ;)

    I’m glad to hear that the tide is shifting in Kiera’s favor. This is why I love the Internet: ideas and causes can spread like wildfire. Even, on occasion, the good ones.

    But what about Cameron D’Ambrosio, a.k.a “Killa” Cam? I haven’t heard much in the way of follow up about his case, other than a few articles containing quotes from friends, neighbors, and school officials.

    Unsurprisingly, there’s a ton of media bias surrounding his case, even within so-called ‘progressive’ media outlets. It’s plainly obvious that, unlike Kiera Wilmot, “Killa” Cam is somewhat of a troubled kid. Recent reports indicate that he was brought up on charges last year for threatening to stab his sister, which were ultimately dropped. So of course since he was previously in some legal trouble, he’s totally an incorrigible bad seed and likely guilty, at least as far as the media is portraying him through testimony from the community. It’s all in the framing: the description of what happened, followed by multiple quotes admonishing his behavior, close with one in his defense and a reference to the Boston marathon tragedy (NEVER FORGET THE TERROR ATTACKS: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER). The only article I found from mainstream outlets that didn’t phrase it in this particular fashion was in The Inquisitr, and they really hit the nail on the head with the following quote from one of Cam’s friends, that was conspicuously absent from EVERY other report:

    “Knowing Cam, and I actually do, he definitely wouldn’t do any of the s*** he said. I never really liked him and did think he was kinda a [homophobic slur deleted] but I cant help but feel bad. He doesnt deserve 5 years, let alone 20. You ppl are obviously unaware that his raps are influenced by many of the mainstream rappers on the radio today and although I do believe sooner or later hes going to end up in the state penn, I dont think this is a good reason to throw him in jail.”

    And that’s the crux of the argument, the one that is consistently being overlooked by the media. The people who are prosecuting this kid, as well as the ones reporting on the case, obviously don’t understand hip-hop culture and its influence on youth. Not that Cam really does either, but it’s clear that he gets it better than the DA’s office ever will. He’s clearly being deliberately provocative to bring attention to his clumsy rap game by capitalizing on a recent tragedy, and unfortunately for him, it worked a little too well in our hypervigilant terror culture. The only thing this kid is guilty of is poor taste, for Chrissake. Let the poor bastard go.

    Here’s the three articles I looked up. See for yourself the way this kid is being castigated:

    Cameron D’Ambrosio Bomb Threat: Boston-Area Student Faces Terrorism Charges – Huffington Post
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/03/cameron-dambrosio-bomb-threat-boston-terrorism_n_3204149.html

    Cameron D’Ambrosio, Mass. Teen, Faces Terror Charges – The Epoch Times (this one’s the worst example of bias against Cam)
    http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/40832-cameron-dambrosio-mass-teen-faces-terror-charges/

    Cameron D’Ambrosio Teen Terror Rapper Held On Million Dollar Bond – The Inquisitr (the only ones who seemed to have gotten this one right)
    http://www.inquisitr.com/649189/cameron-dambrosio-teen-terror-rapper-held-on-million-dollar-bond-video/

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