Rumors of an active shooter triggered mass panic Saturday evening at the Capital Pride Parade in Washington, D.C.
City officials say no shots were fired at the annual Pride event but several people did sustain minor injuries when attendees scattered in fear, toppling over metal crowd control barriers, USA Today reports.
Spectators quickly began to flee Dupont Circle after hearing loud "pop pop" noises they believed were gunshots. Videos shared on social media show crowds of terrified parade-goers running through the downtown D.C. streets.
At least seven people caught in the stampede were taken to area hospitals, and the end of the parade was canceled due to safety concerns.
"There is NO Active Shooter at Dupont Circle," tweeted Kevin Donahue, deputy mayor for public safety. "There are injuries from people running from what they thought were gunshots. But there is NO ACTIVE SHOOTER at Dupont Circle."
Mayor Muriel Bowser confirmed she had been briefed by police that there were “no shots fired, and there is no active threat,” adding that the fire department had responded to "treat minor injuries" caused by the false alarm.
“As the officers were going to the scene, there was a crowd of people going away from it and some of the individuals in the crowd said there was a man with a gun and that someone had fired a shot,” said Guillermo Rivera, a commander with the Metropolitan Police Department.
Although no shooting occurred, a man was arrested and is facing a gun possession charge, Rivera said. Some eyewitnesses now believe those loud sounds may have been from barriers falling over.
“We cannot allow this incident, until we know all the facts of it... to ruin the pride celebration going on this weekend,” said Ashley Smith, president of Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes the annual event. “We’re very focused on wanting to make sure we continue to have a great event for the rest of the weekend.”
“In all my years I have never seen this level of panic for something that didn’t occur,” an unnamed veteran police officer tells the Washington Examiner.
While relieved to be safe, many Capital Pride revelers later expressed anger on social media, blaming the panic on anti-LGBTQ attitudes, inadequate gun control, and repeated mass shootings that have conditioned Americans to equate loud noises with worst-case scenarios.
“THIS is why we don’t need ‘Straight Pride,’” one attendee wrote.
"Whether there was physical harm or not, there was most certainly trauma," Chasten Buttigieg tweeted.
More than 400,000 people are expected to turn out for this weekend's Pride festivities in D.C., Washington Blade reports, and the parade was expected to draw about 150,000 spectators and participants.
Capital Pride Alliance confirmed participation over the weekend from a record number of foreign embassies, including a contingent from all European Union nations.