[Mike Ryan was present at the incident and filed this report.]
Shortly after 11pm Saturday night, PVD Fest was in full swing, with hundreds of people crowding Washington St in Downcity. The Extraordinary Rendition Band had just finished a rousing performance which, ironically, emphasized the power of love and understanding.
Then shots rang out.
There were at least six shots in rapid succession, and the crowd responded immediately — almost everyone within two blocks in each direction ran from what they perceived as the source of the shooting, which amounted to hundreds of people moving as fast as they could. The flood of people toppled jump bikes, vendor stations and barricades. It did not appear that anyone was seriously injured in the stampede. Within moments, the street was nearly clear except for a few people who took cover instead.
Here’s an instagram video of the start of the event: https://www.instagram.com/p/ByfzRVSBeuJ/
A block from the event, after the street was cleared of most other people, six young men running behind the rest of the crowd crashed into one of the stages set up in the street and regrouped. One of them, who seemed to be in charge, directed the others in his group to keep running, saying “You can not get caught.” One of the group, clearly agitated and angry, wanted to run back toward the sound of the shots but was restrained by his companions, who insisted he leave with them. They proceeded to run down a side alley. When asked what had happened, they declined to answer.
Within a few minutes police were on the scene, including officers in body armor with rifles. No additional shots were heard. Police had no official comment at the time of this writing. “Everything is still under investigation,” said one officer on the scene. The senior officers in charge declined to comment.
Eyewitnesses reported that an altercation had taken place involving a number of people. The altercation escalated into a physical confrontation. One witness reported seeing a knife drawn; others did not see this. Then one of the parties drew a gun and fired into the air, triggering the mass exodus. It did not appear that anyone was injured, although that can’t be known for certain until the police report is released. Fire and rescue personnel were present, but no ambulances or fire vehicles. One young shirtless man was apprehended by police, and a short time later two others were seen in custody. It was unclear what role any of them might have played in the events. “This is why we can’t have nice things,” opined one witness. All the witnesses we spoke with declined to be identified and spoke on condition of anonymity.
While this event may have put a temporary damper on the festivities around Washington St, PVD Fest stages further from Washington St continuing their scheduled programming. The spirit that characterized the day in downcity PVD seemed undampened; music kept playing, celebratory dancing went on, and everything returned to normal throughout in no time.
Special thanks: Paul Rochford and Harper Della-Piana