Councilmen, tour guides, and journalists all took to social media to defend the young men and criticize the incident on the National Mall; one man contacted them to give them H.O.P.E. and job opportunities.

On Thursday, June 22, a wave of outrage swept over social media after photos of U.S. Park Police hand-cuffing and detaining three young African American men on the National Mall in D.C. went viral. Their crime? Selling water without a permit. National Mall The arresting officers were white plainclothes officers who were part of an illegal vending task force. The officers handcuffed, searched, and detained the three young men and one adult. Park Police spokeswoman Sergeant Anna Rose released the following statement: “Thursday, June 22, shortly before 5 p.m., four male individuals (three teenagers and one adult) were detained by U.S. Park Police officers for illegally vending on the National Mall in the area of 12th Street and Jefferson Drive, NW ... The three juveniles (one 16 and two 17), were released to the custody of their legal guardians, along with their container and all of the items enclosed within. All parties were released with a verbal warning against vending without a permit and vending in a geographically prohibited area. No parties were cited or arrested.”
The National Park Service requires vendors on the Mall to be permitted. "Vending on the National Mall is illegal without a permit," Rose says. "The National Park Service has a whole office dedicated to permitting."
After U.S. News published the story, a former D.C. resident emailed the National Park Service to ask how they could acquire a permit to "sell water on the National Mall on especially hot days." Elizabeth Buchanan, event compliance monitor for the National Mall, said in an emailed response:
Unfortunately we cannot issue permits for selling water or any other food or beverage items. Guest Services Incorporated holds the contract with The National Park Service to operate the existing food/beverage stands within the park. Any other vending of food/beverages would be an infringement on their contract. I'll include a link to the DC Permits office. You may want to contact them to see about the streets in the surrounding area that are not under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Thanks."

 A councilman responds

A D.C. Council member who chairs the public safety committee responded to the Park Police's detaining of the men with a public letter. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) penned a letter to Park Police Chief Robert D. MacLean and shared a photo of it on Twitter:

The writer and tour guide who witnessed the incident

Councilman Allen wasn't the only one to take to Twitter to express his frustration. Another such person is Tim Krepp, a tour guide and writer in D.C., who expressed his dismay over the treatment of the three young men. In fact, Tim Krepp is the one who happened upon the scene in the first place, the photos he took now circulating the media. In addition to pointing out the absurdity of the circumstances and that the officers proceeded to search the young men, Krepp and other users pointed out that the young men were providing a service for the public that the Park Service has somewhat failed to do. After making the post above, his Twitter page became a battle ground of differing opinions. Krepp immediately pointed out the racial component of the incident, something many white Twitter users don't agree with. Even sergeant Anna Rose, a Park Police spokeswoman, was quoted by U.S. News and World Report saying, “This has gotten blown out of proportion.” At one point, Krepp sardonically suggested a constructive solution:

One D.C. local did just that -- and provided the young men with employment for the summer.

Raymond Bell is currently training Nolan White and Devin Gatewood, two of the young men detained, for their new summer jobs through the H.O.P.E. project. The H.O.P.E. Project stands for Helping Other People Excel. Bell started the H.O.P.E. project in 2009 to combat the high unemployment rate in the community. Raymon Bell told WJLA“I’m an entrepreneur myself, and I love seeing young people having an interest in working for themselves." Bell is teaching the two 17-year-olds about information technology. “We hope to be bringing them on board as iPhone screen technicians here at H.O.P.E. Project,” said Bell.

Devin Gatewood, 17, is a senior at Dunbar High School, and White is entering his junior year at Suitland High School.

“I just want to thank the guy who took the picture, but without him, none of these opportunities would have been possible,” said White in reference to Tim Krepp. 

What do you think about the incident? Were the young men treated unfairly? Should the Park Service sell permits if they plan to criminalize individuals for not having them? Let us know in the comments below.

Two men were doused in bleach while leaving a D.C. bar.