Chris Litherland had never seen anything like it — crowds of juveniles fighting Downtown on Sunday.

“They were just running around the streets, blocking traffic, blocking buses, walking on top of people’s cars,” Litherland said.

“They beat up a 65-year-old lady that was just walking down the street. … It was insane,” he said. “They were just basically running wild around Downtown, doing whatever they wanted.”

Fights were reported at Sixth Street and Liberty Avenue, Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street and in Market Square.

At least three male juveniles were arrested, and five were issued non-traffic citations, Pittsburgh Public Safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler said.

“They were like animals,” said Litherland, 28, of Millvale.

The juveniles dispersed by about 11:15 p.m.

Police released the following information about the arrests:

–At 7 p.m., officers responded to Stanwix Street and Liberty Avenue, where an adult female had been pushed over by juveniles. The woman was treated at the scene by medics, and a juvenile female was issued a non-traffic citation.

–Officers were called to Liberty Avenue at 8 p.m. in response to a large group of juveniles fighting. A young woman had been pepper-sprayed by someone in the group. Police issued four non-traffic citations to juveniles, and a male juvenile was arrested on charges of rioting, resisting arrest and escape. An officer suffered a hand injury during the arrest.

–Several fights were reported on Liberty Avenue at 9 p.m., during which a juvenile male was arrested on charges including aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and escape. An officer suffered a leg injury during the arrest.

–At 10 p.m., a male juvenile dislodged an officer’s canister of pepper spray. The can broke when it hit the ground, and a piece of the can struck the officer in the face. The juvenile tried to flee but was caught and charged with disarming law enforcement, aggravated assault and escape.

The fights occurred on the final night of the EQT Three Rivers Regatta.

Toler previously told the Tribune-Review that the fights were not connected to the event.

Some residents say such events might help perpetrate violence in the area.

“Every big event brings a lot of crowds … and people from different towns fight with Pittsburgh people,” said Mallory Schilling, 25, a resident of the Renewal Center, Downtown. “It’s like a turf war.”

“It seems like they’re targeting every holiday to try to get our entertainment stopped,” said Tonya Wolfley, 43, who lives in the Wood Street Commons.

In July, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership hosted a town hall meeting with Pittsburgh police about reducing crime and violence Downtown after a July 4 shooting near Seventh Street and Liberty Avenue that wounded four people, and a stabbing in Market Square.

Wendell Hissrich, the city’s Public Safety director, said police stepped up their presence Downtown in response to the fights and will continue to do so if similar situations arise.

“We are also working closely with our law enforcement partners, community organizations and Downtown merchants to prevent these roving juveniles from causing problems,” Hissrich said in prepared remarks.

Litherland noted the heavy police presence Sunday but said it did little to deter the fracas.

“They were antagonizing the cops and then having the cops chase after them,” said Litherland. “It seemed like a big game.”

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer.
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