This story was originally published in the April 27, 1990, issue of the Boston Phoenix.
Over the past five years, Boston gangs have grown from disconnected knots of delinquents to form an increasingly sophisticated "misfortune 500" complete with beepers and car phones -- as well as shotguns. And like their corporate counterparts, they're pooling their resources to leverage their muscle and maximize their drug profits.
Let's roll. . . . They could come back just as quickly. Or zap us away. And if one has powers . . . we better assume they all do. We can do . . . a lot more good back inside the X-Men complex. Assuming we're safe even there.
The X-Men of Jamaica Plain (a Latino gang that takes its name from the Marvel Comics contingents of mutant superheroes known as the Uncanny X-Men) jumped into a big-time true-life encounter with Boston's boys in blue last September when they publicly "dis'd" – disrespected -- the local police. Pumped and proud, the X-Men rushed into Suffolk Superior Court to testify at a hearing set to dismiss gun charges against two alleged Castlegate crew members, Lamar Phillips and Melvin Woody. On the stand, a reputed associated of the X-Men openly contradicted the cops, saying the two white police officers who'd arrested the alleged black gangsters had rousted them for no reason while they were on Washington Street in Egleston Square. Members of the X-Men added that they too had been harassed by the police while down their block in Eggie.
In his controversial ruling, Judge Cortland Mathers dismissed the gun charges against the two reputed Castlegate gang members, finding that Boston police officers had acted under an unconstitutional police stop-and-search practice that discriminates against young black men.
"Now their balls are up," one law-enforcement source says of the X-Men's newfound cockiness after their role in the Mathers decision.
In January, members of the X-Men hurled Molotov cocktails at the cops during a Friday-night face-off on Schooly Square, in Egleston -- the X-Men's prime gathering ground and herb-selling spot, on Washington Street between School Street and Columbus Avenue. Residents say the confrontation ignited after the cops slammed a youth to the pavement and pushed around some females. The police say they were trying to disperse a large and loud group when one youth punched an officer. The guy in the middle of the melee: the same one who'd torpedoed the cops on the witness stand. As he was being placed under arrest for disorderly conduct, the cops say, a fire bomb was rolled under a police cruiser. Another one later came flying off a rooftop. Police say they recovered three more fire bombs inside a nearby building.
"They're the first gang to actually damn near go to war with us," says one Boston cop, who admits he felt a flash of fear race through him that Friday night. "And they literally went to war with Chelsea."