Baltimore, MD – More than 400 juveniles wreaked havoc on Inner Harbor on Saturday night but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is upset that police union referred to the kids as "criminals" (video below).
Bystanders described the scene as total “mayhem” when 400 juveniles began fighting with each other at Inner Harbor on Saturday night (video below).
“There were people of all ages running amok just hitting people, and then they’d try to split in different directions to get away from the cops,” a witness told WJZ.
The chaos of a busy holiday weekend afternoon in one of Maryland’s biggest tourist destinations turned violent at about 6:30 p.m. on May 25 when fights started breaking out between different groups of kids at Pratt and Light Streets, according to WBAL.
Baltimore police said about 400 juveniles were involved in the melee, which included them behaving in a disorderly manner by jumping on top of cars, vandalizing and destroying property, and committing thefts.
“They were just randomly fighting with each other,” Baltimore Police Colonel Richard Worley, the chief of patrol, told The Baltimore Sun.
Col. Worley said there was only one use-of-force reported after the brouhaha was over.
“Our officers don’t get rattled by this stuff anymore,” he said.
On Thursday, police released bodycam video from officers at the scene and surveillance video from multiple CitiWatch cameras that were stationed in the area where the mayhem occurred.
One surveillance video showed a large group of juveniles fighting in the middle of Pratt Street, stopping traffic in the process.
An officer’s bodycam video showed about a half-dozen kids beating up and kicking a bicyclist they had pinned to the ground.
In one CitiWatch video, a crowd of teens was running away from police and one boy jumped onto the roof of two different cars to escape.
In yet another surveillance video, a young man leaning against a light pole leaned over and kicked a passerby in the head.
Then he reached over and got a high-five from a friend, The Baltimore Sun reported.
The video clips showed officers running from incident to incident trying to separate fighters and help the victims.
One bodycam video showed a juvenile running directly into the arms of an officer, apparently seeking protection from an angry crowd behind him, The Baltimore Sun reported.
“We tried to give you a representational look of what happened,” Baltimore Police Spokesman Matt Jablow explained. “We went through a lot of body-worn and CitiWatch cameras trying to give you and the public a sense of what was going on there that night.”
Six juveniles were arrested during the ruckus, on charges that included disorderly conduct and assault, WBAL reported.
Col. Worley said the youngest person arrested was an 11-year-old boy, The Baltimore Sun reported.
All six kids arrested were released by early on Sunday morning, he said.
Investigators are still looking for the boy in the video who kicked the passerby in the head, The Baltimore Sun reported.
In the wake of the incident, late on Saturday night, Baltimore City Police Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President Sergeant Mike Mancuso sent out a tweet to his membership.
“To our officers at the Harbor tonight: Protect each other and don't fall into the trap that they are only kids. Some are criminals! Keep the current policies and Consent Decree in mind. If ordered to arrest put the name of the on-scene Commander in all reporting,” Sgt. Mancuso tweeted.
The comments set off a firestorm on social media and attracted the wrath of the ACLU, WBAL reported.
The ACLU called the union president’s language “unacceptable.”
“Comments like this do nothing to repair that trust. Instead, it encourages racial-profiling tactics, excessive force and excuses officers for disregarding the rights of black children,” the organization said, according to WBAL.
The new Baltimore mayor pointed the finger squarely at the parents of the juveniles involved in the brawls.
"Really, it's a parenting question,” Baltimore Mayor Jack Young said. “Are the parents talking to their young people to let them know that downtown belongs to you too, the Inner Harbor belongs to you too, but you go there and act with common sense and decency and not go down there to disrupt and fight and create mayhem down at the Inner Harbor. It's just unacceptable."
"This kind of behavior is unacceptable, and I'm making no excuses for it. It's unacceptable. But that don't indict everybody who lives in the city of Baltimore,” Young continued.
“The 99.9 percent of the citizens of Baltimore are law-abiding citizens who want to do the right thing. It's that 1 percent that keeps us held hostage,” he said.
Some residents of the Inner Harbor area blamed closing recreation centers and a lack of things for kids to do to keep them out of trouble.
"A lot of the rec centers are closing, and some kids are not getting jobs," Anthony Burton told WBAL.
But local lawmakers said they’re already making an effort in that direction.
"We've opened up, or reopened, two rec centers in my district in the past three years. Obviously, that's not enough,” Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello said. “I'm working very closely with the council president and my colleagues to try and find more weekend activities for our young people, so they have productive things to do in a safe environment.”
Baltimore police increased their presence at Inner Harbor for the remainder of the holiday weekend, including a Mobile Command Unit, WBAL reported.
Watch the chaos in the street in the videos below: