State of Emergency Declared in Charleston, South Carolina. Martial Law in Effect!
Acting in response to an article published on January 4 in the Post and Courier about the rampant desecration of downtown telephone poles because they are being used as a repository for chewed-up bubble gum, Mayor Riley today declared martial law and called up the National Guard to patrol the streets of a tense, volatile Charleston. “This city is a tinderbox,” said the mayor at an emergency press conference, “and the good citizens of Charleston will not tolerate such wanton lawlessness!” The mayor added that an 8 PM to 6 AM curfew will go into effect immediately and “anyone suspected of defacing telephone poles with these gobs of ABC gum will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law!”
The mayor had been attending a society masquerade ball when he was rushed by security to the news conference and didn’t have time to change from his Darth Vader costume. This caused something of a stir amongst the reporters in attendance but I personally thought it added to the seriousness of the crisis.
Mayor Riley emphasized that he was grateful that the Post and Courier brought this horrible situation to his attention. He also cited the diligent investigative reporting by staff writer Glenn Smith. The article, which garnered a well-deserved front page headline, was further lauded by the mayor as “indicative of the Post and Courier’s commitment to keeping the citizens of our community informed even at the risk of the health and safety of its own employees. This effort more than makes up for this newspaper’s declining classified ad revenue and looming obsolescence.”
I was taken aback by the classified ad and looming obsolescence reference and really wanted to delve into this unnecessary insult, but was afraid that my dubious press credentials might bring unwanted scrutiny. An observant security guard might have asked me why I had a photo of John Wayne Gacy in his clown outfit on my press ID card rather than a picture of myself. Curses! I had meant to bring my fake Mickey Mouse ID but left it dangling from the handlebars of my moped which was illegally parked in a temporary funeral zone a few blocks away.
In the mind of this observer, Glenn Smith went above and beyond the call of duty with his reporting and some type of award is in order. If this fine article escapes the attention of those who issue such commendations, I have an old tennis trophy that I will cover with ABC gum which I will personally forward to Mr. Smith along with a note of thanks from this grateful citizen.
The mayor continued: “We are in a post-Katrina type situation in Charleston and will not allow a relatively small number of criminals to terrorize our law-abiding citizenry with their chewy, gooey bazooka and juicy fruit waste. These gum-smacking, pole-defacing litterbugs are hereby put on notice that their behavior will not be tolerated in the Holy City! It’s high time that we burst their gum-bubble!”
The mayor appeared to be apoplectic as he noted that “none of these antisocial miscreants went through the proper channels to obtain the required permits for such activities. This is not a Spoleto Festival site-specific artistic endeavor and should not be viewed as such!” He added that four perpetrators had already been detained on Market St. and will be facing a military tribunal in the next few days. Not surprisingly, the offenders were the sons and daughters of prominent members of Charleston families. They are expected to do at least 10 hours of community service scraping ABC gum from the defaced telephone poles. When asked by one of the attending reporters if the miscreants would have to do community service themselves or if they would be allowed to send family servants to perform the gooey task, the mayor uttered a terse “No Comment.”
The mayor also stated that the city would be imposing a one-dollar per stick tax on all gum sold in the city limits to help with cleanup costs.
On the East Side, however, it was a different story altogether, with seven young blacks seriously wounded by police and National Guardsmen wielding automatic weapons, tasers, and billy clubs after they were caught adhering their chewed-up bubble gum to telephone poles. One of the wounded was sixteen-year-old Tyrone Simmons. I visited Reaper Hospital where, from my vantage point in a hallway, I saw Mr. Simmons in a recovery room handcuffed to his bed while members of his family wailed uncontrollably by his side. A guardsman stood duty outside the room and I was only able to gain entry after I donned some purloined hospital greens and found a bedpan to use as a decoy. “Poopy-Time,” I said to the part-time soldier, who smiled as he retracted his bayonet from my quivering nostril.
I entered the room and quietly revealed my true identity to the occupants. They were relieved that someone was interested in their side of the story. I heard the usual accusations of “racism” and had to bite my tongue in the face of such nonsense. “Just the facts, ma’am,” I said in my faux-Jack Webb Dragnet impression, leaving them scratching their heads and wondering what the heck was going on.
I spoke with young Mr. Simmons whose head was grossly swollen and lacerated after it had assaulted a rifle butt. Did he fail to show proper respect when confronted by a national guardsman I inquired? “I had my hat in my hand and was shuffling at the time,” said Mr. Simmons, “but I mussa forgot the all important Yass-Sir part, cause next thing I know he was ‘a wailing on me. I didn’t do nothing ‘cept put a piece of chewed up bubble gum on the telephone pole while I was waiting for the bus. I started to run but a Hummer comes haulin’ ass around the corner heading straight at me. They caught me in the alley and tazed me at least ten times after they done handcuffed me. Then that rifle butt come upside my head and that’s the last thing I remember.”
I had to stop my interview after a public defender entered the room. He spent the next 20 minutes urging Mr. Simmons to plead guilty and promised him that, with good behavior, he could be out in 10 to 50 years.