Emeryville Bay Street brawl among at least 13 incidents across nation involving teens

Experts say everything from post-pandemic stress to "FOMO" could be a contributing factor.

ByJ.R. Stone and Lena Howland KGO logo
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Emeryville brawl among at least 13 incidents across US involving teens
Sunday's brawl involving hundreds at Emeryville Bay Street mall is among at least 13 incidents across the U.S. involving teens.

EMERYVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- On National Cinema Day, where many national theater chains sold tickets for just $4, police say around 300 juveniles were alerted to a "link up" on social media at Bay Street in Emeryville.

But those juveniles quickly broke into groups on Sunday night and got involved in multiple fights. A gun was fired and a juvenile was stabbed and taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

RELATED: 1 stabbed, 1 arrested near Emeryville AMC after hundreds of teens break out into fights, police say

"I don't believe that kids were gathering to fight. I think kids were gathering to get a lot of energy out and I think there is a lot of pent up rage, anger, frustration and anxiety that kind of creates this powder keg that is easy to ignite," said Selena Wilson.

Wilson, CEO of East Oakland Youth Development Center is speaking not only to what happened in Emeryville, but to what unfolded at or near movie theaters across the country Sunday. There were at least 13 similar incidents, including this one in Illinois.

At least one police department warned their community of possible problems after seeing social media posts about fighting. Others departments caught in traffic trying to respond to fights.

"When one event happens where there might be violence, the next one happens where it's like what can we do that's slightly crazier so we get more views," said Dr. Jamie Cohen who is an assistant professor at CUNY Queens College.

The Oakland Unified School District sent a note to parents regarding the incident in Emeryville and asked that they talk to their kids about resolving conflicts peacefully saying, "We later learned the incident involved a large number of our students."

VIDEO: 'Fighting out of control': Witness recounts massive brawl involving 100 kids at Vallejo Six Flags

Vallejo police say a large brawl of around 100 juveniles broke out Saturday night at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.

"It's a mob mentality, people feel like they want to belong, social media kind of creates a FOMO attitude like they feel like they have to be a part of something," said Dr. Cohen.

"I don't think people from my generations or other generations can understand. You are literally feeling the pressure of millions of people on the internet so that FOMO, fear of missing out, is real," said Wilson.

Wilson doesn't believe that these kids gathered to fight but believes kids across the country are hurting. They lived in isolation through the global pandemic, feel a current political divide, and believe there is a climate crisis along with a housing crisis. She actually believes the older generation needs more help here.

"Needing additional resources for parents and caregivers to understand how to navigate the mental and social health crisis that a lot of our young people are experiencing," said Wilson.

"I've seen some of the videos and I'm not surprised," said Emeryville City Councilmember Kalimah Priforce. "Because of the reduction of open spaces in other cities, a lot of people are seeing the Bay Street Mall as a great hangout spot, especially during a National Cinema Night."

Councilmember Priforce believes this is something that could have been prevented.

MORE: San Francisco mall beefs up security after several teen fights caught on camera

"We need to be able to create a better environment for them to feel that the city is where they belong, that this is a home for them and because they don't feel that way, then they react, they respond," he said. "They're babies, they're kids and so this is what kids do."

"It's out of control, it's really sad," Karen Scott, an Oakland resident said.

Emeryville Mayor John Bauters released a statement on Monday saying:

"After successfully dispersing the group, police returned roughly an hour later when additional youth arrived at the scene of the initial incident. I am grateful to the men and women of the Emeryville Police Department for their display of professionalism and resourcefulness in restoring safety for our community."

"With a police presence, you just feel safer, makes a big difference, that's what we need because people are getting hurt out here," Scott said.

MORE: 3 teens among 4 arrested after stealing fragrances from San Mateo Sephora: police

As the daylight broke Monday morning, Emeryville's AMC still had "theater closed" signs posted, but most businesses had reopened and just a single Emeryville police patrol car was there keeping an eye on things, bringing peace of mind to shoppers like Scott.

"I was wondering if things were going to be open because I had to make a return," she said.

In response to this incident, Councilman Priforce is planning a Town Hall at Bay Street to address what he calls a 'public safety crisis' with city officials, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price and Emeryville police.

"Hopefully this will spur a lot more action from folks," Priforce said. "You know, it is our problem, these are our kids, these are our babies and it's about time we actually do something about it."

A spokesperson for the Emeryville Police Department confirmed with ABC7 that out of the roughly 300 juveniles who took part in last night's incident, one juvenile was arrested.

If you witnessed any of the fights or have video, you are asked to contact Emeryville police right away through their Criminal Investigations Section at (510) 593- 3700 or acassianos@emeryville.org and you can remain anonymous.

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