The 2 beefy Mexican hoss cats are going to war. It’s 1999 and 6th street in downtown Austin Texas is about to host a good old fashioned riot. We’re standing outside the Ritz when two young gentlemen take umbrage at what one or the other has just said. Fisticuffs quickly break out and both cats are swinging some pretty wild haymakers.
It’s a small brawl between 2 men with a good crowd of drunks gathered closely to watch the battle.
Then the cops get involved. 2 officers on horseback wade into the fray and begin pepper spraying everybody. Everybody. Each officer indiscriminately sweeps his canister in wide arcs gassing every person in the area . The 2 combatants pay little heed as they’re determined to whale the tar out of one another. The rest of the crowd goes full orangutan. One gentleman even begins climbing a street lamp post. Soon, hundreds of people are running, fighting, dashing, ramming and otherwise doing the things that folks do when they riot.
It’s a wild scene. My date, in stiletto heels, does a remarkable imitation of a young Carl Lewis and starts flat getting it. I light out after her and we escape, narrowly.
This incident receives quite a bit of national media play but is eventually lost to the sands of time.
Fast forward to Summer 2012. Nightly fist fights, the occasional stabbing and/or purse snatching and now gun play are the order of the day in our city’s entertainment playground.
The Statesman is reporting a wild affair involving gun fire last night at San Jacinto and 6th street. Details are still coming in but apparently 4 people; 2 women and 2 men were wounded after the bars closed early Sunday morning July 22nd 2012.
Searching for “shooting on 6th street in Austin Texas” reveals a larger picture of violence. The first hit tells of a gang shootout at Sabine and 6th in May of this year. 2 men and 2 women were shot. The shooter was sixteen years old.
Further searches indicate that in the past 4 weeks a minimum of forty four assaults occurred in the area. Bear in mind that these are just the ones that get reported. Lots of folks get in a scuffle and never say a word to anyone.
One bar owner, Joe Bendetti of Logan’s is done. After a stabbing outside the doors of his pub, he shuttered his business in protest. It’s an admirable act but he’s pissing in the wind if he thinks it will accomplish anything.
Way back in 2009, Spiro’s, home of the infamous boom boom room, was hosting a rap showcase when a late arriving act was informed that they’d missed their show deadline and were not going to be allowed to perform. They went to their vehicle, got their guns and shot the place up with 8 people catching bullets. The club shuttered and Brandon and LaBaaron Hutchison were each sentenced to twenty years behind bars.
6th Street is the wild, wild west. Same as it’s always been with one noted addition: disputes are being settled with guns instead of fists. But has it earned its new nickname?
I’ve always disliked the term Dirty 6th as the historic nature of the neighborhood has always held immense appeal for me. Dirty 6th just rings false. It’s neither cute nor clever, but unfortunately it’s becoming more fitting by the day.
On recent visits I’ve marveled at how many cops there are on the streets. Unfortunately, they tend to stand in groups of 4 and occupy themselves ogling the womenfolk in club wear instead of circulating through the throngs. It’s almost unfathomable that a shooter, at 6th and San Jacinto could get off four rounds with dozens of police nearby and actually make his escape.
It’ll be interesting to see how police chief Art Acevedo reacts to this latest incident. With sixteen hundred officers under his command it seems like getting a handle on the problems of one relatively small neighborhood should be within the scope of his powers.
Til now our old Pecan Street is looking more and more like Dirty 6th.