Hundreds of teens -- possibly children -- had taken buses downtown, apparently intending to cause a ruckus. Metro Transit provided free buses for the holiday, but police are still trying to figure out how and where the idea sparked. Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said investigators are trying to figure out how so many teens communicated and converged so quickly, erupting into several large fights around Nicollet Mall.
"A large group of the crowd arrived very close together and then continued to arrive as the first waves were running up the street. It just kept growing," Minneapolis Police First Precinct inspector Mike Kjos said.
Police used chemical irritants to break up the fights. There were two minor injuries, none of which happened to "innocent bystanders," police said.
"It was very spontaneous. Very rapid. We are looking at absolutely everything we can. How did all these kids communicate to converge on downtown so quickly with so many? Was it social media? Texting? What was the methodology?" Chief Harteau questioned.
The fighting broke out around 7:30 p.m. as the parade wrapped up. The crowds converged near Nicollet Mall, erupted into fights, police broke up said fights, and it would start all over again in a new location. Police said the participants came "from all directions," and there's still plenty of surveillance video to analyze.
Chief Harteau stood at the corner of 7th Street and Nicollet Mall in the middle of the lunch hour Wednesday with other business leaders to assure residents that last night was an isolated case, and there is no reason to fear downtown.Where were the parents?
John Martin is a parent and said some of the kids in his community were part of the melee. He saw last night as a symptom of a larger problem.
"It was kinda sad. It was kinda bad to see a group of African American teens with ages ranging from 15 to 18, just out there harassing people and bumping into people and getting a kick out of it," Martin said.
It inspired Martin to organize what he called a Parent Information Fair that will allow both parents and children to find organizations that interest them and occupy their time, rather than this.
"We've got to find more ways of reaching out, not only to teens, but reaching out to their parents. Their parents can encourage them to get involved in something positive rather than negative," he said.
A Minneapolis Police spokesperson said Chief Harteau likes the idea. Meanwhile, police are checking Facebook and other social media outlets looking into how the concept may have sparked.
"What you saw yesterday, it's going to spread. It's going to spread like wildfire, and we want to be able to stop it. We want to be able to put it out. We want to be able to offer these young people hope," Martin said.
The Parent Information Fair will be at Butter Cafe, on the corner of 37th and Nicollet in Minneapolis, on March 28th from 11am to 3pm. If you have any questions, or would like your organization to attend, contact John Martin. JohnMartinC1970@gmail.com or 612-223-8250.