It's evening, and the punk rockers have gathered at the McDonald's near
Hennepin and Lake. The crowd of 40 teen-agers spills onto the side-walk and out
into the street, resplendent with shaved skulls, black leather, Sid Vicious
T-shirts and bizarre makeup.
"I like the look of cutting myself while shaving," says a boy with a bloody face. A girl proudly shows off her five skeleton earrings…all dangling from one ear.
Passers-by gawk with wonder. But area merchants glare with disfavor at the punk rockers, who they fear are scaring away business.
Police can't say who's responsible, but evidence of vandalism is apparent. Kitty-corner from McDonald's, obscenities have been scrawled on the walls of the Walker branch of the Minneapolis Public Library. Signs have been stolen. Trash cans have been knocked over.
Across the street at Schlampp's, skateboarders have gone rolling through the clothing racks.
Although the punk rockers have not been directly connected to the recent incidents of vandalism, Uptown Association merchants have been voicing concerns about the youths to one another and to the Minneapolis Police Department, and a crack-down of sorts has begun.
McDonald's has beefed up security, adding a second guard at 7 p.m. to help clear out loiterers.
Police have assigned a beat officer to the intersection. Lt. Ron Findorff of the juvenile division said officers have met several times with groups of about 15 youths and warned them that if they continue to loiter, they will be arrested.
City Council members Joan Nlemiec and Barbara Carlson will meet Thursday with Police Capt. Bernard Jablonski about the punkers.
"The perception is that there is a problem with punk rockers in the Hennepin-Lake neighborhood and we have to deal with it," Findorff said. "It seems to have gotten a reputation as a place to hang out and that's what we're trying to correct."
The kids -- who call themselves "McPunks" -- say it is their appearance and not their behavior that is under attack. All they want, they say, is a place to catch up on gossip (the regulars take incoming calls on the pay phone near McDonald's), to bum cigarettes, to see and be seen.
"Our very presence offends them," said Tena Eastburg, a sophomore at Southwest High School. "If we dressed preppie and said, 'Have a nice day,' they would probably let us sit here for hours. But just because we want to express our individuality, we're labeled troublemakers."
Robyn Sandberg, manager of Posh at 2912 Hennepin Av. S., said the problem is real and that she takes pains to avoid McDonald's patio area.
"I'm afraid to walk by," Sandberg said. "I won't eat there anymore because they've completely taken over and their numbers give them power. Some of the kids come into our store and they're nice kids, but they're bored."
"You have some very respectable kids who are dressing the part and loving it, but some are just destructive," said John Meegan, owner of Top Shelf Tailors, 1406 W. Lake St.
"Part of it is the age-old conflict between one generation and another… But I'm only 30 and some of them make me nervous."
Not all merchants are upset. Jan Snyder of Snyder Drug dismisses the group as just another fad, "like the hippies" of the 1960s. "Some of them look grotesque, but they're really not bad kids. They're certainly not any worse than any other group of teen-agers"
To determine the extent of the problem the crime analysis unit searched the July arrest files for people who fit the description of punk rockers --- white, between 14 and 19 years old -- and compared those statistics with July 1983. (August figures weren't available.) The results showed eight arrests in the area around the McDonald's, compared with three last year. This year there were three arrests for burglary, two for vehicle theft and one each for possession of narcotics, disorderly conduct and trespassing.
Of the three 1983 arrests, two were for burglary and one for a traffic violation.
"I'm not comfortable in attributing any area problems to the kids," Jablonski said. "Unfortunately, other people are."
When a problem arises with the punk rockers, police prefer to talk with the kids or take them home, rather than make arrests, he said.
"We advise them not to loiter, not to trespass ... to point out the error of their ways, and it seems to be working. They have adopted this particular area. Everyone has a right to be here."
However, the teenagers say that they are not being treated fairly.
They maintain that older McDonald's customers can nurse a Coke for hours without harassment, while they are hustled off the premises by city police or McCops, their name for McDonald's security guards.
Said Eastburg: "McDonald's thinks we'll scare away their customers.
Well. we are their customers."
According to Monica Duerr, area supervisor for McDonald's since July, one of her first tasks was to tackle the loitering problem.
I don't feel that we're discriminating," she said. "Perhaps they feel that way because they utilize the facilities the most. We're not trying to remove punk rockers. We're trying to alleviate all loitering."
Meegan said most merchants at the recent Uptown Association meeting wanted to take a "wait and see" approach. "There was a feeling that between school and cold weather starting, that maybe the whole thing will blow over," he said. But Andy Slater, 19, said that's not likely.
"They can raid this corner all they want, but we're here to stay," Slater said. "We are city kids and the city is where we want to be."