DES MOINES, Iowa — A night to celebrate the artistic accomplishments of Des Moines students ended with four arrests, as hundreds of teens flooded the downtown Des Moines streets. Celebration quickly turned to chaos.
“The fights were breaking out so fast. They would follow where the fight was,” said Bishop Ron Woods of Elpis Christian Fellowship in Des Moines.
On Friday, Woods picked up his two sons from the annual Fam Jam event at a max capacity filled Des Moines Social Club. Hundreds of teens spilled into downtown, some disruptive. Woods could be seen on his Facebook video urging teenagers to go home. The Des Moines Police Department was called in to deescalate the situation. “It gets pretty challenging for us when you are outnumbered like that and there is a frightening factor to that,” said Sgt. Paul Parizek.
Woods’ Facebook Live video reached parents and even state Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, who brought vans to get kids home. “One of the purposes of the video not only was it to make sure parents saw their children and got down to pick them up but to see how peaceful the police were. They walked alongside the kids. They weren’t disrespectful to the kids and a lot of the kids were very disrespectful to the cops,” said Woods.
With some still uncooperative, pepper spray was used. Parizek said, “This wasn’t just a crowd issue, it is a behavior issue, too. Woods added, “They did everything they could not to make arrests. I want to make sure that people know.”
Despite the friction between some teenagers, Woods says he saw a community coming together. Woods said, “The CEO of D.A.R.T. left dinner with her husband. She and her husband both came over and opened D.A.R.T. back up. The police eventually had to pepper spray and D.A.R.T. allowed the kids to wash themselves off. They also allowed them to get on the bus and get home.
While four juveniles were arrested, police say they remain committed to helping Des Moines youth become successful. “We’ve got a partnership with the schools that includes resource officers all year round and we extend that into the summer with our summer programs and second chance programs,” said Parizek.
The Fam Jam program continues to see an increase in popularity among students and new ideas are surfacing about how to best celebrate student success. Parizek said, “They probably should look at a different venue or we can work with the city for a street closure but there has got to be some changes made.”
The Des Moines Public School District (DMPS) believes crowd control issues were caused by many people being turned away due to the size of the venue. They called the Fam Jam a victim of its own success.
DMPS addressed what happened in a statement:
“The Fam Jam has been a great event hosted by the RunDSM program to celebrate the end of the school year and the artistic talents of our diverse student body in Des Moines. Its popularity has grown in recent years, and last night the venue reached capacity, meaning many people had to be turned away. This did cause crowd control issues outside of the event. The Fam Jam event is a victim of its own success, in that regard, and will be taking a look at options for how to best meet its popularity in the future.”