Metro Weekly

Chemical Agent Causes Panic and Injuries at Baltimore Pride

Baltimore Police are investigating the incident and say the release of the chemical did not appear to specifically target Pride.

Baltimore Pride 2017 – Photo: Ward Morrison / File Photo

Several people were injured during Baltimore Pride after the release of an unknown “chemical agent” led to a stampede on Saturday, June 15.

Baltimore police say the incident occurred during the Baltimore Pride Block Party, at around 8:37 p.m., when attendees informed officers on duty that someone had released a chemical — such as mace or hairspray — into the crowd.

Fireworks were also set off close to the area of the main stage at North Avenue and Charles Street, which only exacerbated the situation, leading to people being trampled as spectators fled.

The panic abruptly ended a performance by headliner Saucy Santana, and the area was closed while EMTs from the Baltimore Fire Department treated the injured.

Police did not name the chemical agent publicly, and are still trying to determine what it was, according to The Baltimore Banner.

They declined to report on what might have prompted the release of the chemical agent or how many people were injured.

“Our officers are diligently reviewing the surveillance video to gather all the necessary information and determine the sequence of events,” Freddie Talbert, a Baltimore Police public information officer, told the Banner.

Talbert said police did not have any information to support the idea that the incident deliberately targeted Pride celebrations.

Online social media posts, which described people being trampled by fleeing revelers, suggested the chemical agent was mace, which had reportedly been sprayed after a fight broke out near the stage. 

Kate Bowers, a Cockeysville resident who was near the stage at the time, described a scene that appeared to indicate that people in the crowd were suffering from the side effects of being maced.

She and her friends reported an inability to stop coughing on the day after the incident.

“All of the sudden, people were screaming and running,” Bowers said. “It was like a bomb went off. The air was so thick. People were throwing up. People were pouring water in each other’s eyes. There was a little kid in a stroller. They were pouring water in the child’s eyes.”

The Pride Center of Maryland, the event’s organizer, tried to calm people’s fears following the incident.

The following day, Cleo Manago, its executive director, said that a “group of youths” had used mace during the block party.

He said that the chaotic situation at the block party did not appear to impact attendance at other Pride weekend festivities, including Pride in the Park, which featured vendors and musical acts. It was held from noon to 6 p.m., at Druid Hill Park, on Sunday, June 16.

“People are here in droves,” Manago told The Baltimore Banner on Sunday afternoon. “Yet, today, our security force is paying particular attention to what Pride celebrants bring in with them.”

Manago told the Banner that Pride Center of Maryland would revisit the idea of moving the festival to “a larger venue that is more conducive to managing the potential for Mace or any other dangerous item to enter this highly anticipated event.”

Saturday’s parade and block party were expected to draw 100,000 people. Although Manago did not have an official count, he told the Banner that, “optically,” crowds at the parade and block party appeared to be double that of last year.

LGBTQ bars near the block party did not report any disruption to their business on Saturday night.

Brandon Gruszczynski, the manager of the Baltimore Eagle Bar & Nightclub, said the incident was unfortunate, but did not spill into the club, which had several of its own security measures in place to protect guests from a similar occurrence.

There were also no reports of disturbances at Club Car, a queer cocktail bar in Station North.

“Everything for us was peaceful,” Club Car’s Ryan Haase told the Banner. “I was bartending, so I didn’t see it or really hear anything about it — and we were half a block away.”

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