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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Stop snitching

After Gang Threat, It's Cap, Gown and Lockdown

Published: June 10, 2006

LEVITTOWN, Pa., June 9 — For the 415 seniors at Harry S. Truman High School, graduation day offered one final lesson — unplanned and most unwelcome — about gangs, violence and intimidation.

Members of the Bloods street gang reportedly threatened to kill the school's class president, who was a star athlete and honor student. Besides that, given the outbreak of gang-related shootings here in recent months, the threat transformed the commencement ceremony in this Philadelphia suburb into an odd pageant of anxiety and security.

The 4,500 friends, relatives and spectators who came to the ceremony had to pass through metal detectors before they could enter the stadium, which was decorated with banners, bunting and sprays of yellow carnations. Undercover police detectives milled through the crowd.

Yet when the ceremonies began Friday afternoon, the class of '06 was missing its president, Tyrone Lewis, whom the police had banned from the ceremony because they believed that he, and his family, were in danger from the Bloods. Mr. Lewis's sister had agreed to testify against gang members in a New Jersey murder trial, and Mr. Lewis was recently shot at by three men who the police said they believed belonged to the gang. Also absent from the ceremony was Ahman Fralin, 18, a senior who has been hospitalized, and paralyzed from the neck down since April, when he was shot in the spine as he sat beside Mr. Lewis.

Despite protests from Mr. Lewis's mother, he delivered his speech from a secret spot as the crowd watched on a large television screen.

After being welcomed with raucous applause by the crowd watching on the screen in the stadium, Mr. Lewis, 18, made only passing reference to the circumstances that made him an exile at his own graduation. He asked the crowd to pray for Mr. Fralin and suggested that the police "lockdown" surrounding the graduation ceremony should come as little surprise in an age when police dogs search school lockers for drugs and students have their knapsacks checked for guns each morning.

This is the price of the Stop Snitching t-shirts and the mentality behind it. People are shot, people die.

posted by Steve @ 1:08:00 AM

1:08:00 AM

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