On Saturday, December 19th, in the middle of a snow storm that had already dropped over six-inches of snow in Washington, D.C., a snowball “war” broke out on the corner of 14th and U Street. The spontaneous gathering included some people that heard about it through Twitter and Facebook, some who heard about it through friends or neighbors, and others who just happened to pass by the corner. It was a rather large group of people. Estimating conservatively, I would say at least 100 people were there. The crowd was having a great time; people were throwing snowballs, running and falling in the snow, laughing, taunting the other side through chants (depending on which side of 14th you stood: “east side sucks” or “west side sucks”), carrying signs (“No War but Snowball War”), drumming, snapping photos, and just altogether having a lot of fun in the snow.
That is, the fun was going strong until a guy in a SUV pulls over at the intersection after his vehicle was hit by a soft snowball. The guy pulled out a handgun and showed it to the crowd. My memory escapes me, but I believe he waved it around at the nearby people who had snowballs in their hands. After someone screamed out, “he’s got a gun.” The crowd moved away and then the man with the gun pulled out and talked into a radio. Shortly, marked police cars pulled up with their sirens on. A uniformed police officer jumped out of a cruiser and slowly walked toward the armed man, who by now had put his gun away and had walked over toward some people in the crowd. I figured either the man with a gun was crazy or a cop and I assume the reporting officer thought the same. But, he probably figured he should be safe. The uniformed officer approached with gun drawn and to his side. Eventually he recognizes the man, who was a plain clothes officer. The atmosphere is soured. The crowd seemed confused. People started chanting, “You don’t bring a gun to a snowball fight.” The situation looked chaotic for several minutes surrounding the plain clothes officer and a few snowball participants. The uniformed police were able to get the crowd to disperse. The fun was done.
One man in the crowd said, the police “have acted this way for 30 years around here.” I must ask, did the plain clothes cop really act appropriately? Shouldn’t you show your badge or warn the crowd that you are a cop prior to drawing your weapon and directing threats toward an unarmed, harmless gathering? Does this cop really think that showing force in such a way is necessary or a justifiable display of force? He should be punished, fined, or forced into an anger management class.
Update (Sunday, December 20th, 12:15am):
Here are additional photos from the gathering.
In order to see additional photos keep reading.