You may see more police at beaches around Boston this summer. That's because of an incident at Carson Beach in South Boston Monday, when about 1,000 young people gathered there. Some of them, according to State Police, got into fights and acted unruly. Initial media reports painted the incident as gang warfare organized over Facebook and Twitter, but the real story may be less sexy.
The lead story on the Drudge Report Tuesday carried the headline "Teen Gangs Unleashed on Boston Beach." The link takes you to the story in the Boston Globe that suggested rival gangs had used Facebook to plan unruly gatherings on the beach.
"No that's not true, there's no gangs," said Amanda Murphy, 17, of Hyde Park.
"'Cause I guarantee you, if it was some gang stuff, 30 people would have been dead," said Murphy's friend, 17-year-old Samantha Louis.
Murphy was there on Monday with more than a dozen friends. She was back at the beach Tuesday, and was disappointed more friends didn't show up.
To be clear, no one was arrested that day for violence on the beach. Louis and her friends said people did post their plans on social media sites to encourage other friends to go.
"Everybody wanted to, like, hang out," Louis said. "And [the] beach is the only place you can hang out and it doesn't cost you money."
Youth organizer Emmett Folgert said it looks like the day started innocently.
"You get five kids who have 500 Twitter followers to 1,000, and I know they're not gang-involved at all, and just say, 'Hey, let's go to the beach.' I know for a fact that I have three people that did that with Twitter," Folgert said. "These things go viral very quickly."
Folgert said the violence started with a fist fight between two girls, who are not involved in gangs.
"Nobody I'm talking to, my staff and the young people, many who were there, said that this was a planned gang fight," Folgert said.
The spokeswoman for the Boston Police Department, who helped respond to Monday's incident, wrote in an email, "At this time, our intelligence does not indicate that were was a gang issue [Monday] but we are continuing to share information with State Police to determine specifics."
Still, State Police, who have jurisdiction over Carson Beach, maintain that gang members were involved in the fights.
"Yes, our intelligence suggests that some of the actual physical confrontations and physical violence was a result of rivalries between Boston street gangs," said State Police spokesman David Procopio.
"By no means are we suggesting that all of the hundreds of young people who were there had gang affiliations. Far from it, in fact," he said.
Procopio said this is the largest gathering of young people they've seen at the Southie beach. So, from now on, they are sending more uniformed and plain-clothes officers to patrol. They're also asking police in schools to listen for plans of similar large gatherings at the beach.
This program aired on June 1, 2011.