National Mall

Teens Detained for Selling Water on the National Mall

The teens were eventually released to their guardians with a verbal warning from Park Police regarding illegal vending

A Washington, D.C., council member is asking for the U.S. Park Police to clarify why teenagers were handcuffed on Thursday for selling bottled water on the National Mall.

According to Sgt. Anna Rose of the U.S. Park Police, shortly after 5 p.m., officers detained the three teens at 12th Street and Jefferson Drive, Northwest, for illegally vending.

A witness took photos of the three teens -- all of whom are black -- being handcuffed by the plainclothes police officers, which were shared widely on social media. 

The teens, two of whom are 17 and the other 16, told officers they did not have a vendor’s permit, which is required to sell items on the National Mall, Rose said.

“Officers placed them in handcuffs for the safety of the officers and of the individuals,” Rose said on Friday.

Democratic D.C. Council member Charles Allen, who chairs the public safety committee, wrote a letter to Park Police Chief Robert MacLean on Friday, asking him to explain the agency's actions.

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In the letter, Allen wrote he believes the officers' actions would've been different if it were different children who were operating a lemonade stand in the same location.

"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."

“I would appreciate your response in reviewing yesterday’s events. I would also appreciate knowing how standards and expectations will be evenly applied in the future,” Allen said in the letter. 

The witness who took photos of the teens in handcuffs had a similar reaction to Allen. 

"There's obviously a racial disparity in how they are treating these young men and other vendors that we see on the mall," said Tim Krepp.

According to Rose, the teens were eventually released to their guardians with a verbal warning from Park Police regarding illegal vending. Their belongings were also returned to them.

Read Allen's full letter below.

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