Thousands of teenagers and young adults swarmed South Street Saturday night, prompting businesses to close early and police to bring in reinforcements to control the crowd.
Authorities credit parents with alerting them to the potential problem after seeing messages on their childrens' mobile devices telling them to gather on the youth-oriented street. Police worked for hours to disperse the crowd, which shut down the street, and move the teenagers west toward Broad Street.
Businesses along South Street locked their doors and some restaurants kept their patrons inside. A few fights were reported and a few arrests were made, but no serious damage was reported.
“This is the worst I've ever seen it,” said Barbara Bender, who has worked for three decades at South Street Souvlaki, which closed early. “It's a bunch of young kids that are creating havoc, and it's killing our business. It's scary.”
Bender said she saw some fights and masses of teens stampeding first one way and then the next.
“The cops are really trying, but it's overwhelming,” she said.
Police said Sunday that three people were arrested for violating firearms laws, disorderly conduct and blocking traffic.
Both the cops and Mayor Nutter are making plans to prevent future flash mobs from getting out of control.
Last spring, several people were injured when at least 100 people converged on the area. A 54-year-old man riding his bicycle home from work was critically injured when he beaten during the May 30 episode. In addition, a cabdriver was assaulted and robbed nearby and two people were pulled from a vehicle on Broad Street and assaulted and robbed.
And mobs of young people have caused disruptions in Center City three times in as many months. Some of the teenagers responding to a Dec. 18 call about fights at the Gallery mall food court later randomly attacked some pedestrians on nearby streets.
On Feb. 16, about 150 teenagers spilled out of the mall and some rampaged through a nearby department store, knocking down pedestrians and damaging displays. Following a similar episode March 3, police made 28 arrests and filed felony riot charges slated for trial March 22-23.