While the violent crime rate in D.C. continues to soar above the national average, the U.S. Park Police appear to have other priorities.
Three plainclothes police officers went undercover at the National Mall to bust three young black teens on Thursday as they were breaking the law in our nation’s capital. Their crime? Selling water bottles without a permit for some extra cash.
Yes, these young people were arrested for “vending on the National Mall,” and according to police, they were detained and handcuffed for “the safety of the officers and of the individuals.” The story went viral on Friday after a tour guide named Tim Krepp tweeted photos of the officers and turned it into a lesson on race.
“My kids sell water and everyone smiles at them,” Krepp wrote. “These kids do it and get arrested. It IS racist.” He later added, “God forbid the actual free market be allowed on our National Mall. There’s obviously a racial disparity in how they are treating these young men and other vendors that we see on the mall.”
Of course, the mainstream media jumped on this, and one local politician even lashed out.
Democratic D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen responded by asking the police chief to explain why the officers decided to handle the incident with such severity. “While still the same violation of selling a beverage without proper permits and licenses,” Allen wrote. “I doubt we would have seen little girls in pigtails handcuffed on the ground.”
While these officers had every right to enforce the (pretty dumb) law, they might have benefitted from some discretion in how they handled the situation. In the age of smartphones and social media, anti-police activists have more tools at their disposal than ever before, and more ways to propagate their narrative. Couldn’t they predict that the image of three white police officers arresting three black, unarmed kids might make headlines? Is arresting people for selling cold water really worth it?