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Hundreds evacuated from CambridgeSide Galleria

Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Police and pedestrians were outside the Galleria Mall in Cambridge after officers disbursed a crowd of more than 1,000 people.

By Travis Andersen, Felicia Gans and Samantha J. Gross Globe Staff and Globe Correspondents  

CAMBRIDGE — A large crowd of young people that had gathered to meet a Boston Celtics player and a rap artist became unruly and was evacuated from the CambridgeSide Galleria mall Monday night.

As some threw bricks and glass, police used pepper spray to control the crowd.

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More than 1,000 people were forced to leave the mall after the disturbance, which broke out around 5:50 p.m., according to Cambridge and State police.

The crowd had converged on Champs Sports on the third floor of the mall to meet Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown and the rapper Desiigner.

“The ticketed event was disrupted when a large contingent of attendees surged forward, knocking over barriers and individuals waiting in line,” Cambridge police said in a statement.

“Officers were targeted with glass, bricks, and other objects while dispersing the crowd outside of the Galleria, however no injuries were sustained by the officers,” the statement said. “Select attendees were treated after being exposed to OC [pepper] spray, which was used by police to manage and disperse the crowd inside the mall after the crowds grew more aggressive.”

David Procopio, a State Police spokesman, said the disturbance began inside the mall and then spilled outside. He said the crowd was “getting combative and hostile” when Cambridge police called them for assistance.

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Six juveniles — four males and two females — were arrested, authorities said

A 28-year-old volunteer at the event said officers asked the organizers to turn off the music around 5:30 p.m. so they could make an announcement. About 20 minutes later, officers asked people at the front to move back, which created confusion in the middle and back of the crowd. An officer then stood on a bench and sprayed pepper spray into the crowd, according to the volunteer.

“There was no mayhem before that,” he said, asking to remain anonymous. “She sprayed, and it sprayed everybody in front of her. Everybody in front of her just scattered.”

“When you take a mob or a mass that is . . . hundreds of people that are all there for one purpose, and they all start screaming and running, that just sets off panic,” he added.

Most of the people at the event were young, from ages 7 to 16, he said.

Procopio said 45 troopers were sent to the mall, about 30 of whom assisted with the disturbance. Police cleared the mall after the disturbance, and closed a number of surrounding streets to traffic.

Andrielle Jicinto, 25, an employee at another third-floor store, described a frightening scene inside the mall.

Young people were running up and down the hallway, including one girl who shouted “[expletive] the police!” she said.

“I just saw people running,” Jicinto said. “I was really scared, because I didn’t know what was happening. It’s all teenagers yelling.”

Vunnie Thou said the crowd grew rowdy after an 11-year-old girl was pepper sprayed. “It was wild,” said Thou, 20, of Lynn.

Thou, who was with his 15-year-old brother, said they both had to run to avoid being trampled by the crowd.

“There were so many people knocking down signs and stealing stuff,” he said. “I didn’t want to lose him. We had to run with the crowd.”

One attendee said that he went to get a closer look at the crowd after he heard “everyone going nuts.”

“We saw the mall security pulling a kid from the crowd, and he apparently got pepper- sprayed cause he was absolutely losing it,” said a 19-year-old from Boston who would only provide his first name, Erich. “We went down to Best Buy and saw 20 cops run in, some in riot gear.”

Champs Sports was deserted shortly after 8 p.m., except for a security guard who declined to comment. Mannequins sporting Celtics T-shirts with Brown’s No. 7 were visible in the display window.

The athlete said later Monday night via Twitter that he had not made it inside the mall before the evacuation.

“Police shut it down we here tho,” Brown tweeted.

Desiigner had tweeted out “MEET ME IN BOSTON” earlier Monday and later retweeted video clips of the crowd that news outlets and witnesses posted.

“Sorry I was not able to make it to @champssports,” Brown tweeted. “The police had to shut down the mall before I arrived. I’ll try to reschedule it soon.”


Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com.