DES MOINES, Iowa — Students who walk the halls of Des Moines public schools every day believe Monday’s fight downtown was a long time coming.
“It was just building up for too long and people had to let it out some way. They just took it out in violence,” said Cartier Smith, who witnessed the fight.
Police say the group was filled with 100 DMPS students, but only a few of the boys were fighting near 6th and Walnut. Because of the size of the crowd, Cartier said police were forced to use pepper spray.
“They didn’t really care who got pepper sprayed,” he said.
Leronda Turner witnessed another girl get sprayed.
“They maced her. Her shoe came off and everybody had ghosted. When they ran, her shoe came off and she was crying. They couldn’t let her go in the DART station to get water for her eyes.”
Leronda also witnessed the three juveniles involved being arrested.
“When they take people into custody, they just threw them on the ground like they were a piece of nothing.”
Cartier says school was a lot calmer after Monday’s fight.
“Everybody has their beef, their problems, their issues, and I guess they solved it over there.”
DART provides 3,500 rides a day to Des Moines Public School students and employees. They monitor large groups that gather around the central station, but the fight happened blocks away. Witness say trying to break it up would have been like throwing gasoline on a fire.
“It was like split down the middle on sides. It was like two big, different sides, so everyone is going to be fighting and that’s no good. The cops would have had to call for more cops. It was a case that I feel like jumping in is not the way. Let them fight it out,” said Cartier.
This mentality is why Hip Hope, a local non-profit using arts and culture to provide an alternative to violence, spent part of the afternoon speaking with kids who got off the bus near the station.
Bo James, the organization’s executive director, said, “Promote and advocate for hope when symptoms of hopefulness are prevalent. When you’ve got 100 kids out here and violence erupts, that is a big symptom that needs to be addressed.”