Popular YouTube videos feature Victoria students brawling
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WATCH THE VIDEOS
To view the "V-Town Throwdown's" videos, go to www.youtube.com/user/VTownThrowdowns.Video contains disturbing images.Viewer discretion is advised.
Who knows what happens before the shirts fly off, but by the time video cameras are rolling, two boys have their fists clenched near their jaws.
In a few seconds, jabs are leveled by each of the kids, who are soon stumbling to the concrete and whaling more punches, each of their faces scrunched in anticipation of the blows.
The gauntlet has been thrown down for the world to see, and the spectacle is in our backyard.
Tens of thousands of people have viewed a series of YouTube videos called "V-Town Throwdown's (sic)." The compilations are set to hip hop music and spotlight kids belting each other, pinning rivals down to unprotected blows - all in Victoria and often surrounded by spectators with smart phones.
One video compilation, which received more than 21,000 views before it was removed, featured two girls going at it in the street, yanking hair, flailing punches and wrestling on the ground. The fight is broken up only when one girl repeatedly slams the face of her opponent into the blacktop.
"It's pretty much entertainment. People get entertained by UFC. My (videos) are just bringing out Victoria, Texas," said "V-Town Throwdown's" creator, John "Zee" Jimenez.
"I let people in Victoria know this is what's going on," he added. "You can handle it how you want or change it, but yet, I'm showing you what's happening."
Jimenez, 18, has been making the videos for about two years, after friends first approached him to burn DVDs of fights in which they'd been involved. Soon, kids were sending him videos of fights or telling him where to find the fights online, hoping to make the cut into a final video compilation.
By last week, at least six "V-Town Throwdown's" videos were on YouTube, the product of a few hours spent working on Windows Movie Maker.
"Everybody's always asking me, 'When's the next video?'" Jimenez said.
Jimenez, a sophomore at East High School, said he was last in a fight about two years ago, and he doesn't film the actual fights.
But as the godfather of "V-Town Throwdown's," he thinks he's fulfilled an untapped demand in Victoria. The thousands of views of his videos reiterate his assumption.
"In some circles, it's wildly popular. You can improve your reputation if you're some bad--- character who has a reputation for fighting," said Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.
Bushman said research has shown people are more likely to fight in public than in private settings, likely because of the audience that's cheering on the violence.
The popularity of fighting videos may then be a modern reflection of ancient behavior.
"Violence and sex are just universal characteristics of human behavior, and we're hardwired from our evolutionary past to pay attention to violent and sexual cues," Bushman said. "Our ancient ancestors who didn't (pay attention) died before they could pass on their genes."
From his experience in Victoria, Jimenez agreed. Videos or not, kids have always been fighting, and they always will, he said.
In fact, the streets seem to offer a rather pragmatic approach to problem solving, Jimenez said.
"If he wants to fight over this reason, and you discuss that reason, and if it's OK with yourself, then it's like, 'OK, yeah, we'll fight over it,'" Jimenez said. "You accept the fact that you might get videotaped ... You determine what you want to do right then and there."
The unspoken rules say fights should be one-on-one, with no surprise attacks or weapons. All fights that make it into "V-Town Throwdown's" have to pass Jimenez's standard of fairness, he said.
"Say it's like a big guy versus a small kid, I wouldn't do that," he said. "Bullying is just not good at all."
Stroman Middle School Principal Lisa Cortez said she and other principals have begun to notice so-called "mutual fights," which often don't emerge from any major conflicts.
Rather, fighting between middle schoolers is more of a way to save face or prove power, usually under the pressure of peers.
"A lot of times, they're doing it for entertainment, but then they punch each other a few times, and then it becomes anger and it's a fight," Cortez said.
Cell phones and social media have added a new dynamic to the discipline at schools, she said. Arguments can be exacerbated by "he-said, she-said" on social media, but videos can actually help schools administer discipline.
"Who knows what's going on on the weekends?" Cortez said. "At school, we're doing a very good job of keeping it under control because kids talk."
As much as gossip swells in the hallways, it almost inevitably makes it to the office.
If administration gets word - and they often do - that a fight between students has been captured on a cell phone, they and the school resource officer can seize the phone.
If the videos reveal fights happened at school, as some of the "V-Town Throwdown's" videos show, kids can be punished under the authority of school policy. Instigators and those with cell phones can be punished, too.
But if the altercations are more than 500 feet away from campus, the school's power is diminished.
That's where the fighting can become a criminal matter.
The Victoria Police Department has in the past tracked down kids seen fighting in videos, said Eline Moya, public information sergeant.
"It's like the new era of 'Rocky,'" she said. "The sad thing about it is, these kids want to engage in this."
If the kids are found to be at school or in a public place, they can be cited for disorderly conduct, which can carry a fine of up to $200.
Though a good number of fights among kids are considered mutual, sometimes a video reveals an actual assault, a class B misdemeanor, Moya said.
As the former sergeant for the department's special assignments section and head of the juvenile crimes unit, Moya said the number of fights among kids hasn't increased because of viral videos. Rather, the videos serve as an extra tool for police to investigate complaints.
Despite the consequences, Jimenez said kids sometimes ask to be featured in his videos and that he'd remove the videos if they asked that, too.
His mom, Martha Ramos, said she and her son talked about the videos when he first created them and established that ground rule.
"I think it's OK what he's doing. If it's OK with the kids and the kids' moms, then that's fine," she said.
Ramos, 40, said her son is constantly stuck by his computer and is especially interested in music.
John said the "V-Town Throwdown's" videos could serve to gain him exposure.
"I like doing rap, so people are going to hear about 'Zee' and say, 'Yeah, he also raps,'" John said. "I wouldn't want to put all these fights out forever ... but as long as somebody wants me to put it out there, then OK, I will."
YouTube may have taken it upon itself to stop the videos Monday, when Jimenez's account was apparently flagged and removed.
Though countless fight videos can be found on YouTube, its official policy doesn't allow for videos showing someone being hurt, attacked or humiliated.
But by Friday, at the urging of several people on Facebook, John had posted three more "V-Town Throwdown's" videos under a new account, each gathering more than 100 views in two days.
But now, the videos come with a disclaimer.
"The action portrayed by the people in this video is strictly upon their own free will. They chose to fight and accepted the consequences along with their actions. Nothing shall be held against me for what happens in this video . Enjoy."