Friday Night Rumble: Not Yet a Flashmob-Sparked Metrorail Brawl
Metro riders aren't the only ones scared by Friday night's incident on the Green and Yellow lines—with elections fast approaching, some politicians are trying to figure out if the brawl carries some risk for themselves, too.
The incident involved as many as 70 teens and young adults underground on Metro. The Associated Press notes that no weapons were found at the scene of the fight, which started at the Gallery Place-Chinatown station and ended at the L'Enfant Plaza station. One witness reported that one person used a "cane-like weapon" to beat someone on the ground. Three teens were charged in the incident.
The Washington Post does a good job detailing how scary the situation was for some of those caught up in the "hysteria" and "pandemonium." At least one person thought it was a terrorist attack! "I turned the other way, and I was trampled," 27-year-old Chris Davis tells the Post.
The violence provided another opportunity for Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells to talk up his proposal for an earlier curfew. Back in June, the D.C. Council voted down Wells' bill that would have mandated an earlier curfew for juveniles. Some councilmembers, including Ward 3's Mary Cheh and Ward 8's Marion Barry, said that there's no empirical evidence that having earlier curfews actually makes a dent in juvenile crime.
At-Large D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson, tells the Post an earlier curfew would not have prevented Friday's fight. So there aren't any magic solution to curb these types of incidents, aside from more police patrols and better communication between Metropolitan Police Department officers on the streets and Metro Transit Police inside the system. (There will be some Green Line patrols by the D.C. Guardian Angels, however.)
Since 2005, Metrorail crime has increased.
One matter that is worth closer observation: Could the group violence on Metro be a version of the "flashmob" brawls police in Philadelphia were dealing with earlier this year? (There is some debate, however, whether Twitter, text messaging and other social networking really sparked the threatening gatherings on Philly's South Street, which drew big national media attention at the time.)
Certainly, though, phone-savvy teens and young adults are able to exchange real-time information while they're out and about, something they would have had difficulty doing just a few years ago. Flashmobs can also do this, and this, which is scary in its own way.
Lest anyone think this is a D.C.-specific concern, it's important to remember that large groups of angry people can turn violent quickly. Two weekends back in Brooklyn, I stumbled upon a grizzly sidewalk murder scene where a "mob" of 20 young men, armed with crowbars and tire irons, killed one and sent another to the hospital with serious stab wounds—in the end, a far more severe incident than Friday's Metro brawl.
Photo by thisisbossi via Flickr under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license