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by Peder Schaefer6:38 pmJun 17, 20240

Police and first responders failed to promptly help injured at Pride event, some attendees say

After gas released in the crowd causes panic and a stampede, the role of police, paramedics and the organizers of the annual Baltimore event is questioned

Above: Video posted on social media from the Baltimore Pride event Saturday night appears to show a substance being sprayed into the crowd. (@ddciaga)

Eyewitnesses to the chaos that erupted after noxious gas was released at the Baltimore Pride event on Saturday said they saw multiple people in medical distress – and first responders who failed to act promptly to assist injured partygoers.

Attendee Sam Child told The Brew that at about 8:37 p.m. they saw a huge “whitish cloud of vapor” erupt near the main stage at North Avenue and Charles Street, after which the crowd began stampeding out of the area.

“First people screamed, then the performers ran off the stage, and then there was a massive movement of people down the street,” Child’s brother, Jake Child, said.

“We saw coughing, vomiting and red eyes. There was a child being carried by their parents who was coughing and in respiratory distress,” Sam Child, a registered nurse, continued.

“I’ve treated people medically before for tear gas, and the injuries were very similar.”

Added Margie Miller, “It was clear if we kept sitting down, we were going to be run over. I just started coughing and started breathing through my shirt.”

Child tried to provide medical care to people injured by the gas and the stampede, but said police and the paramedics on hand hung back.

“Anyone trying to seek medical attention or help of any kind was largely ignored by police and first responders,” Child told The Brew.

Several participants said they witnessed people suffering from bodily injuries and asthma attacks as well as a young woman who appeared to be having a seizure.

“The medical and police response was woefully inadequate and negligent,” said eyewitness Elisabet Eppes.

When the standby paramedics were finally persuaded to move from their posts and assist, they threw the woman onto a stretcher “like a sack of potatoes,” added Joanne Sherrod.

BPD: Gas was Mace

Police and fire officials have not directly responded to The Brew’s requests for comment on the allegations made by some attendees.

A review of surveillance footage is underway and a search for suspects is ongoing, Baltimore Police said today, asserting that the material released into the crowd was mace.

During a fight, individuals had sprayed mace and lit fireworks, leading to a stampede, injuries and the premature end of the event, police said.

Three attendees were treated for gas inhalation at a local hospital and then released, according to police.

BPD said its own officers did not release the gas, but several eyewitnesses said the sheer quantity of gas filling the air suggested that there may have been multiple releases into the crowd.

“The medical and police response was woefully inadequate and negligent”  – Elisabet Eppes.

In videos shared on social media by Saucy Santana, the main stage performer at the time of the incident, the back of the crowd began to stampede before Santana ended his performance and bolted off the stage.

Another video shared on “X” showed an altercation between two groups or individuals before one person sprayed yellow-looking gas over the crowd directly in front of the Crown Baltimore bar and music venue.

The crowd screamed before running from the gas cloud.

“You are told you are fine when everything is not fine”  – Joanne Sherrod.

A BPD helicopter flying over the area at first told attendees that the situation was under control, according to Sherrod.

“They said, you are safe. Have you ever heard of something so ‘1984’ in your life? You are told you are fine when everything is not fine.”

The helicopter announcer soon told the crowd that the event was over and to go home.

Organizers not Prepared

With suspicions lingering about the origins of the noxious gas, Child and others said the handling of the event by the organizers and the city left participants feeling marginalized and unsafe.

“We were in a predominantly Black and queer environment, and I felt like we were really ignored,” they added.

“They weren’t medically prepared for a mass emergency event, which is what it was,” said Child.

“I was pretty rattled,” said Sherrod. “A dance party that is totally peaceful is not a place where I expect that.”

Cleo Manago, CEO of Pride Center of Maryland, which sponsors the annual event, did not respond to emails or messages left at the organization’s office.

The incident comes on the heels of a string of challenges facing the Pride Center.

In April, the city halved a $500,000 federal ARPA grant from the organization and terminated the group’s contract to provide violence intervention services for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Spending board backs the Recovery Office, terminates ARPA grant to the Pride Center (4/3/24)

The termination – a rare step for City Hall – came after Chief Recovery Officer Shamiah Kerney accused the Pride Center of “repeatedly failing to collect and submit required documentation to validate reported performance data for the project.”

For example, Kerney said the nonprofit reported serving 549 people when, in fact, only 176 participated. Overall, the city held 14 meeting with the organization to resolve 17 issues, of which only one was successfully addressed.

The Pride Center continues to hold two other ARPA contracts.

It was awarded a $270,000 grant to house 10 families experiencing homelessness and $510,00 from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety & Engagement (MONSE) for violence interference and outreach for sexual and gender minorities.

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