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Amid Metro brawl, family's night out turns into 'pandemonium'

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By Valerie Strauss and Phillip Lucas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 9, 2010

It was bad enough when Kimberly Hay's family, riding the Metro to the Kennedy Center on Friday night to watch "Mary Poppins," saw three youths assault a terrified young rider reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" by aiming an aerosol can at his face and spraying.

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But the brawl they witnessed on the way home several hours later, which involved at least 70 youths fighting each other in a frenzy, left Hay's nieces "freaked out" and the 43-year-old wary of riding the Metro in off-peak hours.

"It was pandemonium," said Hay, who had traveled to the District from Charles County with her husband, sister-in-law, 25-year-old niece with special needs and two grandnieces, 11 and 14.

"We were pushing our kids out of the way, trying to plaster ourselves against the wall so nobody would hurt us. There were five fights right in front of us. . . . Metro is very accessible but not safe all the time. I don't know if I would ride it again in non-rush hours."

It was the second reported big fight involving young Metro riders in the nation's capital this summer, and some elected officials called Sunday for better security and new approaches to deal with the problem.

The melee highlights the difficulties authorities have in dealing with teen violence and how it can encroach on a Metro system that routinely carries commuters, families, tourists and late-night revelers.

Metro Transit Police were investigating the incident and reviewing videotape of the fracas, which began about 11 p.m. at the Gallery Place Station, Metro officials said. A large group of battling youths boarded Metro cars and continued to fight as they spilled onto the platform for the Green and Yellow lines at L'Enfant Plaza Station, terrifying other riders and causing a stampede.

Two 16-year-olds were charged, one with disorderly conduct and the other with simple assault. Angelo Nicholas, 18, of the District was charged with disorderly conduct.

Five people hurt in the fight and ensuing crush were taken to hospitals, a Metro spokeswoman said, and an unknown number of others were injured.

Chris Davis, 27, of the District was one of them. He said he was about to get onto a train at L'Enfant Plaza when he heard people running out of it and screaming.

"I thought it was a terrorist attack," said Davis, who works for the American Civil Liberties Union. "I turned the other way, and I was trampled."

'Madness' ensues

Violence among young people during the summer is a longstanding problem in the District, and it is the reason there is a curfew that requires city residents 17 and younger to be off the streets by midnight.


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