Peril, teen swagger collide at site of jaywalking incident
At Seattle's most-famous jaywalking spot, right across from Franklin High School on Rainier Avenue South, school let out at 2:30 Thursday afternoon and things were back to normal at the bus stop there. That is, there was some shouting, some loud talking, some jostling — the usual hyperkinetic teen energy. Kids boasted they had jaywalked that very day, and planned to continue doing so.
Seattle Times staff reporter
At Seattle's most famous jaywalking spot, right across from Franklin High School on Rainier Avenue South, school let out at 2:30 on Thursday afternoon, and things were back to normal at the bus stop there.
That is, there was some shouting, some loud talking, some jostling — the usual hyperkinetic teen energy.
Kids boasted they had jaywalked that very day, and planned to continue doing so.
"Looking for excitement, that's a good description," said Michael Dixon, whose title is "security specialist" at the school, about the throng of teens gathering there. "The problem is that it's excitement that's skewed."
He was at the bus stop, making sure things stayed calm.
Dixon would eventually get into an animated discussion with some of the students. It turned out he is in full support of the actions of Seattle Police Officer Ian P. Walsh.
It was on Monday afternoon that the hyperkinetics took a nasty turn, when Walsh punched a 17-year-old girl in a jaywalking confrontation at the bus stop after she had shoved him.
The incident was videotaped and has since gone viral around the world on YouTube, creating a never-ending feast for local talk shows.
The 17-year-old is Angel L. Rosenthal. She had tried to intervene in the arrest of Marilyn Ellen Levias, 19. Both have been in trouble with the law but have not served jail time.
On Thursday, a Seattle police car was sporadically near the bus stop, which is right by an instant-loans joint, a laundromat and the Delicious Deli that advertises barbecued ribs and chicken and racing forms.
The cops kept a low-key presence, issuing only one jaywalking warning, and that was a few minutes before school ended, to Brenda Akers, 55, of Kent, who walks using a cane.
She said she was on disability from a stroke, and it was too much effort to use the pedestrian overpass that's right there.
So she decided to brave the zooming traffic, which is a lot of zooming traffic.
At that spot, Rainier Avenue is intersected at an angle by Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, with each arterial using four lanes of traffic, plus middle lanes.
Given that it's such a pedestrian-unfriendly spot, it's surprising there have been only four pedestrian-vehicle accidents at that intersection in the past decade. Expand that to all of Rainier Avenue, and you get 61 pedestrian accidents in the five years ending in 2006.
The potential for jaywalking accidents was worrisome enough for Franklin High staff and the school district to ask cops to make their presence known at the bus stop.
But when you're 15, you believe yourself invincible when jaywalking across a busy arterial.
"I jaywalk all the time," said Veronica Keo, a ninth-grader at Franklin. "You just cross when there's no cars."
She was asked how much longer it'd take to walk on the pedestrian overpass from the school to the bus stop.
"About a minute," said Keo.
"It's a minute!" said Keo.
The cop car at the scene on Thursday stayed parked behind the instant-loan joint. The cops either didn't see or overlooked a female student who ran across Rainier Avenue and hopped on a Metro bus.
Some kids were warned about the cops by Erica Turner, 18, who said she attends an alternative public school.
"Do not jaywalk if you're an African American. You will get a ticket. We're going to be on TV!" she yelled.
She and Michael Dixon are not fans of each other. The school security specialist considers her a troublemaker who likes to hang around Franklin. On Thursday, Turner went around poking other kids with an umbrella and taunting them.
Turner said she had been given five jaywalking tickets in recent months, and had not paid any of the $56 citations.
Dixon talked about the Monday incident. The young women are African American. Walsh is white..
"Racial? This wasn't racial," he said about Walsh's punch. "I know about racism. I was in the Black Panthers. That guy [Walsh] is more lenient than most of them. Ninety-eight percent of the time, if he catches you jaywalking, he admonishes you. It's just when you do it more than once or twice."
The kids said it just wasn't right for a man to punch a woman.
Dixon, who is 58, said it wasn't right for the young women to act in the manner that they did.
"I'm trying to teach kids social skills on a street level. They have to be respectful. I don't buy into this 'homey anything goes' attitude," he said.
Another 15-year-old, who gave his name as "Eric.K," and said everybody at Franklin would know who he was, said he had jaywalked Thursday morning at 10, just after second period.
He had gone to the Delicious Deli.
"I got a banana-nut muffin. That was $1. And I got two Capri Suns. Cherry. That was $1," he said.
Eric.K said he wasn't worried about speeding traffic.
"I'm black. My eyes are highly trained," he said, with the kind of cocky certainty only a teen could have, no matter what race.
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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