By Dan Wing, Trang Do, Brandon Longo and Cleve Bryan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS)— At least 30 people were arrested after a flash mob of more than 100 teenagers wreaked havoc in Center City Philadelphia Monday evening.
Police say the group gathered in the area of 15th and Market Streets around 5:30 p.m., and began fighting and running in and out of traffic with no regard for others.
Police Commissioner Richard Ross says 20 people were cited for disorderly conduct, while a few others may face more serious charges after several people were violently attacked.
“They were actually beaten, maced and claim to have even been tased,” said Ross. “We know they were assaulted for sure. We had four people, we do not know if charges will be approved on those four. So we’re trying to wait to see, but the whole thing is just idiotic.”
Kenneth Ensigm was sitting in his truck doing paperwork when he saw the rush of people, some jumping on a taxi.
“All of a sudden I looked up and saw what looked like 200 teens running from the shops at Liberty Place area,” said Ensigm. “After the initial rush of people I started recording with my iPhone. The teens started dispersing as the police followed them on bicycles. I saw two individuals jumping on top of a parked taxi car at the corner of Ludlow and 17th Street. As the police came closer to the two individuals they jumped off the car and ran.”
The motive for the large crowd is unclear at this time. Commissioner Ross says police believe it was planned through social media.
SEPTA’s Police Chief Thomas Nestel tweeted overnight: ‘SEEKING HELP! Please know what your nugget of love is doing after school. Kids are hurting kids. Love them by making them come home.’
He went on to call the fights the worst he has seen.
Police say a female officer was injured when she fell off of her bike while responding to the mob.
“It’s not fair to the people live in Center City, it’s not fair to the people who are down there shopping and working,” said Ross. “It’s all ridiculous idiotic behavior that is inexplicable to me.”
But Ross isn’t surprised. He says flash mobs are an unfortunate by product of social media, which is how they think “Monday’s Madness” got started.
A similar incident happened last October on Temple’s campus.
Columbia researcher Desmond Patton studies teen violence and social media. He says it’s just the latest form of kids seeking attention from their peers.
“So they use social media to meet up, use hashtags to bring each other together and engage in these risky behaviors because it’s really important to known, to be visible,” says Patton.
Due to Monday’s flash mob police stepped up their presence on Tuesday.
Ross says it falls on police, parents and educators to help young people understand what sounds cool online has real life consequences.
“It’s almost like a form of reality TV for these young people,” said the commissioner.