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Ford City Mall reopens after teens’ rampage ends in arrests

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Updated: March 26, 2013 9:45AM

The Ford City Mall was open for business Sunday, a day after a youth rampage there had mothers with small children running for cover and police making almost two dozen arrests.

“You saw parents grabbing their babies, and run into stores — one woman had two babies,” said Manny Torres, a salesman at the mall. “It was crazy.”

Two people were slightly injured during the disturbance about 4:45 p.m. Saturday. Mall general manager John Sarama said it involved hundreds of “somewhat organized” youth. Those taken into custody were charged with misdemeanors ranging from mob action to criminal trespass to simple battery, police said.

“It was in many ways a flash mob kind of concept that I’ve seen on Michigan Avenue,” said Sarama, who said he’d never seen anything like it in his five years at the mall.

Sarama said mall security had been “beefed up” Sunday and that the mall was operating on regular hours.

The melee broke out after a promotional appearance by the popular boy band Mindless Behavior, police said.

The band had recently concluded the event, aimed at a primarily tween girl fan-base, when a “group of youths” entered the mall intent on creating “chaos and havoc,” said Sarama, who insisted that the disturbance was not related to the band’s appearance, which ended about 4 p.m.

“The people who came out for it were mothers and fathers and girls . . .” Sarama said. “It was a very positive event.”

During the disturbance, some of the teens ran through the mall. A planter box was broken. One boy threw a wad of about $100 in small bills into the air, causing those nearby to scramble for the cash.

“I don’t understand what the purpose of that was other than it caused a bit more commotion,” Sarama said about the money.

Torres, who works in a kiosk in the middle of one of the mall concourses, downplayed the seriousness of the incident, although he said in his nine months working at the mall he’s never seen anything like it.

“You just had to get out of the way. That was pretty much it,” Torres said. “It wasn’t anything too chaotic. It was kids acting like kids.”

The mall was evacuated and police closed South Cicero Avenue to traffic in the vicinity of the West Lawn neighborhood mall, police said. Chicago Transit Authority buses were rerouted to avoid the area.

By the time it was all over, several people were arrested, two were injured and a sizable force of police and paramedics had descended on the mall, according to authorities and Sarama.

Even after the mall was evacuated and the doors were locked, the chaos continued outside.

Police said those arrested were mostly juveniles.

Mindless Behavior appeared at the mall, signing autographs to promote their upcoming release “All Around the World,” according to social media websites run by the band’s management.

The band’s manager, Keisha Gamble, did not respond to a request for comment.

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