Tourists visiting the National Mall in Washington D.C. in the summer can expect to occasionally see people on the street lugging coolers around and selling water.
Three teenagers, ranging in age from 16 and 17, were allegedly attempting to do just that before being handcuffed by plainclothes police officers Thursday afternoon.
Tim Krepp, a tour guide, took photos of the incident, which happened near the Washington Monument and posted them on Twitter. The post has since been retweeted more than 12,000 times as of Friday evening.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Krepp got in heated debates on Twitter with various users throughout the day arguing the arrest was racist since the teens were African-American.
"My kids sell water and everyone smiles at them. These kids do it and get arrested. It IS racist," Krepp tweeted.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Park Police Sgt. Anna Rose, told U.S. News & World Report that the teens were detained for “illegally selling water” without a permit, and believed the whole situation “has gotten blown out of proportion.”
"Vending on the National Mall is illegal without a permit," Rose told U.S. News & World Report. "The National Park Service has a whole office dedicated to permitting."
The teens were held until their parents arrived. They were let off with a warning, according to WJLA.
Some Washington D.C. elected officials were concerned about the arrests.
After getting reports of the incident, D.C. Council member Charles Allen, a Democrat, sent a letter to the U.S. Park Police Chief.
"I can't help but think how the reaction by these same officers might have varied if different children had set up a quaint hand-painted lemonade stand on the same spot. While still the same violation of selling a beverage without proper permits and licenses, I doubt we would have seen little girls in pigtails handcuffed on the ground,” the letter read.
Washington D.C. Rep. Eleanor Norton also weighed in on the incident Friday, saying she would ask the U.S. Park police to explain the arrest.