Rochester, N.Y. – A busy Memorial Day evening at the beach ended abruptly when fights broke out among at least 100 youth.
Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies shut down Ontario Beach Park, prompting a traffic jam. Large crowds of youth ran south on Lake Ave.
Sheriff’s and Rochester police arrested 13 people on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to drug and alcohol offenses.
Erica Blake, 34, allegedly assaulted a deputy who responded to the scene. She’s been charged with second-degree assault. Police say the deputy was scratched on the face as he was pulled into the fracas.
Witnesses said there were many young children on the beach. When a large scramble suddenly became more like a fight, parents feared the worst.
"I was scared for a minute. I started grabbing everybody...and making sure they moved out of everybody's way," said beach-goer Catrina Davis.
"There was a group of young gentleman running through the parking lot, saying something like someone's getting beat up, and next thing you know there are 20 cops, ambulances, fire trucks," said Kelsey Davis.
Many people were at the beach to attend the city-organized Rib Festival. Those already at the festival Monday were allowed to stay in the fenced in area.
This isn't the first time a local venue has shut down because of fights on Memorial Day. Seabreeze made it a policy to close on Memorial Day starting last year after rumors of violence. The city has an ongoing issue with crowds of youth at the Liberty Pole downtown.
"I think what you saw at the beach is what we’ve been seeing in many of our neighborhoods for two decades," said Councilman Adam Mcfadden. "It’s just that you had a lot of people there who are not used to that culture and got to witness it personally."
“It’s unfortunate because that’s not the kind of reputation we want in our community,” said Michele Labigan of the Charlotte Community Association. “It’s frustrating for families that want to go down there to have to deal with this.”
“That has to be a place people are comfortable going and if we need to impose some order on it we’re going to do exactly that,” said Mayor Tom Richards.
Police Chief Jim Sheppard said he had already beefed up patrols in the area.
“We know that on good days we’re going to need resources down there,” he said.
But McFadden said additional officers won’t solve the problem. He said the youth mobs the city is experiencing are related to “gang culture.”
“What do we do about these young people who don’t respect life and make going to an event miserable for the rest of the community?” McFadden said. “That’s really the issue.”
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