Undercover Police Handcuff Teens Selling Water on National Mall

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Police handcuffed three teenagers Thursday evening for attempting to selling water without a permit on the National Mall.

Photos tweeted by passerby Tim Krepp, a tour guide and writer, show three plainclothes U.S. Park Police officers detaining the three African-American teens near the Mall’s Smithsonian Castle, located between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol.

The photos, which show the contraband in an evidence bin, were retweeted more than 7,000 times as of Friday morning.

“My kids sell water and everyone smiles at them. These kids do it and get arrested. It IS racist,” Krepp tweeted. In another tweet, he wrote: “God forbid the actual free market be allowed on our National Mall.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Park Police, Sgt. Anna Rose, confirms three teenagers were detained for vending without a license, but says she feels “this has gotten blown out of proportion.”

The three teens, ages 16 and 17, were detained for “illegally selling water” but were not charged, Rose says. They were held until their parents arrived. A fourth individual was immediately released after officers determined he was uninvolved, she says.

It’s not immediately clear if the teens were taken to the police station or if they waited for their parents on the Mall. It’s also unclear how long they waited.

But Rose says “this was not some hours-long ordeal.”

Rose says that although the officers were not wearing uniforms, “there was no sting operation” or concerted crackdown on drink-sellers. She could not comment on why officers decided not to charge the teens with a crime, but says officers have discretion to make such decisions.

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