|Black people end First Friday in 54 % Black Augusta as only Black people can|
In many cities, First Fridays events place an emphasis on African American networking and business opportunities for African American professionals. First Friday is the top networking event for African American professionals and consistently attracts over 16,000 people each month across North America according to First Fridays United. The First Fridays monthly events originated in 1987 as an outlet for African American professionals to mix, mingle and network. During the 1980s it was common for an individual to be the only black professional working in their company. First Fridays happy hours become a way for these professionals to meet in a social atmosphere while exchanging useful information.
Augusta’s First Friday shooting is now considered gang related. Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver and Sheriff Ronnie Strength are speaking out about where to go from here.
“Personally,” declared Sheriff Ronnie Strength about First Friday. “I do not like it.”
Have we seen the last First Friday event in downtown Augusta? Deputies are investigating a shooting involving 6 people.
“Every vendor will shut down, put there stuff in their vehicles, and they will leave,” said Strength. “Therefore there is none of this going on after 10 o’clock at night.”
The mass shooting is now considered gang related.
“We can’t say these are young folks looking for something to do,” said Strength. “They are also thugs that come down here that are looking for something to do, and they should not be around or associated with law abiding citizens.”
Sheriff Strength is issuing an ultimatum to downtown merchants.
“If they want it,” said Strength. “They should be paying for this. This is not a city sponsored event.”
If no one steps up to the plate and takes charge, I feel like it should be shut down because there’s no benefit,” Sheriff Ronnie Strength said after a Monday meeting with Mayor Deke Copenhaver and several Augusta commissioners. “For it to continue, someone has to be in charge.”
Commissioners Joe Jackson and Grady Smith agreed that one of the event’s biggest obstacles is the absence of a sponsoring organization since the Downtown Development Authority gave it up in 2006.
“There’s no person right now that we as a commission can say postpone it, don’t do it anymore,” Jackson said. “People just show up now; there’s nobody putting it on.”
Friday marked the high point of violence at the downtown event, which Strength said had seen a rowdier-than-normal crowd in recent months. None of the victims was seriously injured, and the shooter remained at large Monday.
Jackson said he was surprised that juveniles were the victims of shootings after 11 p.m. because most downtown venues are not open to them at that hour, but he said a lack of police presence was not the issue.
“There were ample deputies down there,” Jackson said.
Smith contrasted First Friday with the Augusta Exchange Club Fair, where the club imposes rules on participating vendors and hires off-duty sheriff’s deputies to handle security.
Planning committee urges strict enforcement of traffic and curfew laws to stop criminal and lewd behavior by revelers in Atlanta for Black College Spring Break]:
Atlanta’s Freaknik planning committee is recommending that City Hall use “very strict” law enforcement to discourage the event next year.
At a news conference at City Hall on Friday, city leaders agreed Freaknik has attracted a criminal element and strayed far from its beginnings as a laid-back gathering for black college students. The planning committee released recommendations to Mayor Bill Campbell that focus on discouraging attendance next year, or at least preventing a repeat of this year’s rowdy event that generated many reports of young women being sexually assaulted. “We cannot cancel it,” acknowledged George Hawthorne, chairman of the planning committee of Black College Spring Break, as Freaknik is officially called.
Recognizing that people will come without being invited, the committee recommends enforcement of traffic and curfew laws, and a crackdown on the lewd public behavior. The committee’s four-page report also speaks of the need to get the word out to local and national media next year of the “discontinuance of Freaknik.”
Hawthorne said there was an increase in violence and sexual assaults against women this year, even though there were fewer participants. At this year’s event, 407 people were arrested, two rapes were reported and there were four shootings.
“We’ve got to welcome people to the city of Atlanta,” Hawthorne said. “What we can’t condone is this activity.”
Hawthorne said his committee of city, community and business leaders will have to work closely with police. Police spokeswoman Jan Northstar said the department will work with city officials.
The committee is recommending that the city not issue permits for any Freaknik-related events in 1999, and not offer its support of any private functions. There still will be a national job fair sponsored by a private company that will get city support.But most of the discussion at City Hall centered on whether the event can be stopped.
George Hawthorne once believed that Freaknik could be salvaged, the energies of giddy and reckless college students channeled into safe activities. So he took the post as chairman of a biracial committee of business and community leaders appointed to steer last year’s rowdy street party into something more serene. But by the time Freaknik ’98 ended, Hawthorne was a critic, having been exposed to the street party’s harsher realities. He spoke candidly of one experience: “I personally had to pull a young lady out of a crowd who had half-stripped her. What we have today is a criminal element of sexual abuse against women. It’s time to make a change.”
With that, Hawthorne and his committee recommended last May that City Hall fight future Freakniks. But Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell didn’t take the recommendations of his own committee to heart. Despite a growing consensus that the party damages the city and endangers its participants, Campbell cannot bring himself to crack down on it.
In fact, in a radio interview a few weeks ago, Campbell gave the event, scheduled for the weekend of April 16-18, mild encouragement. He said the students are welcome as long as they don’t violate the law.