Flash Mobs Take Violent Turn in Philadelphia

Flash Mob

Flash mobs turn violent.

It started innocently enough seven years ago as an act of performance art where people linked through social-networking Web sites and text messaging suddenly gathered on the streets for impromptu pillow fights in New York, group disco routines in London, and even a huge snowball fight in Washington.

Seth Kaufman was injured in the flash mob Saturday, which he called “a tsunami of kids.”

But these so-called flash mobs have taken a more aggressive and raucous turn here as hundreds of teenagers have been converging downtown for a ritual that is part bullying, part running of the bulls: sprinting down the block, the teenagers sometimes pause to brawl with one another, assault pedestrians or vandalize property

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After online rumors stoked fears yesterday of yet another potential flash mob – this time at 40th and Market Streets – police told businesses there to close, parked cruisers in the middle of street, and stationed officers at each corner.

No large, destructive group of teenagers materialized. Still, the mobilization showed the city’s heightened sensitivity to the phenomenon of flash mobs, which have struck Center City and South Street four times since December, fueling worries that the gatherings are harming businesses and the city’s image.

Hours earlier, Mayor Nutter, flanked by about 40 uniformed officers and joined by the police commissioner and district attorney, had held a news conference in Headhouse Square to announce, again, that the city would not tolerate misbehavior.

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