The rest of the country was taken aback by the spirit shown by Baltimore, as an estimated 200,000 people thronged downtown for the Ravens championship parade on Tuesday. Also taken by surprise: city and team officials, who were woefully unprepared for the sheer number of people who showed up—especially the more-than-capacity crowd that descended on M&T Bank Stadium.
Owner Steve Bisciotti said he expected 30,000 people to attend the free ceremony at the stadium, and that they expected to maybe have to open the upper deck. Instead it quickly became standing-room only, with fans spilling onto the field, and the Ravens had to close the gates. We saw a hint of the pandemonium with this video of fans scaling the outside of the stadium to get in, but it sounds like things were a little Thunderdomish in there.
In one incident, a mother and her two daughters say a group of unruly fans threatened them for their seats:
[I]n Section 119, one section removed from the field where the Ravens entered the stadium, our mother of two was fighting off people who had crashed Gate C intent on taking fans' seats by force if necessary.
"I was physically fighting them off to not trample my children and to trample the other children that were with us. They were yelling racial slurs. They said that if we didn't move, they were going to stab us... like all this craziness."
Ernest Woodward noticed the commotion from his vantage point in the Upper Level.
"They were climbing over the wall where the bleachers are, and that's when they did all that crazy stuff up there."
The mother of two, who will remain anonymous for her own safety, says three rows full of fans and their children had to push past the aggressors, giving up the seats they'd claimed three hours earlier and ultimately leaving the stadium without celebrating anything… except for the fact they had escaped with their lives.
Meanwhile, a mother and her son were trampled by a rush of fans while entering the stadium. Both were knocked unconscious, and 11-year-old Tyrek suffered a concussion and an eye injury.
"I was holding my son's hand, but instantly it was gone," Hodge said in an interview Thursday. "It was too late. They had already trampled on top of us."
After the celebration, a fight three blocks from the parade route escalated into murder. Three teens were stabbed, including one fatally. Police initially said the incident was unrelated to the parade, but all had attended, and surveillance camera footage shows both victims and attackers wearing purple. The mother of the dead 15-year-old criticized police for downplaying her son's murder, to protect Baltimore's reputation as the national media looked on.
Baltimore's police commissioner called the murder a "sad stain on an otherwise excellent performance by the City of Baltimore."
When If the Ravens win another Super Bowl, they'll do things differently. Team president Dick Cass said having the stadium celebration be open to all was a mistake, given the size of the crowd.
"In the future, if we had to do it again, we would have a ticketed event at the stadium," Cass said. "They would be free tickets, but we would hand out tickets so people would know they could get into the stadium. If you didn't have a ticket, you couldn't go. I think that was probably the major potential safety issue. Next time we do this, we'll know better."