U.S. Park Police have arrested a 21-year-old man they say is responsible for frightening the crowd of thousands at Saturday’s March for Our Lives rally near the Washington Monument by yelling something during a moment of silence.
Mitchell Martinez, of Coral Gables, Fla., was charged with disorderly conduct by creating fear and disorderly conduct by disrupting a gathering. Police said Martinez did not have any weapons, did not pose a threat to the public and was released with a citation to appear in court at a later date.
The perceived threat of a mass shooting at a large gathering protesting such violence caused a brief panic, as attendees ran away from the stage, children cried and many people were spooked enough to leave the Mall before the end of the rally. Martinez told a Park Police officer he yelled “I am God” during the moment of silence, according to a police affidavit, but three witnesses said they heard him yell “I have a gun.”
There was no attorney listed for Martinez in online court records, and his relatives could not immediately be reached for comment.
The rally was staged by March for Our Lives, the organization founded by student survivors of the 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Martinez, a rapper who wants to “promote gun control through music,” drove to D.C. from Texas to attend what he called the “March for Gun Control” event, according to a police affidavit.
Once there, according to a police affidavit, four witnesses told authorities they saw Martinez jump the fence in front of the stage. Martinez also told a Park Police officer that during the moment of silence, he played the fourth track on his album from a handheld speaker, according to the affidavit. When security grabbed him, he said he tried to pass his speaker to people in the crowd before throwing it toward the stage.
The ensuing stampede lasted about 15 seconds and rippled at least two-thirds of the way through the crowd before a speaker onstage shouted to stop running.
Peter Hermann contributed to this report.