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Downtown merchants split on what should happen to First Friday

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Downtown business owners are split about what should happen to First Friday in the wake of a shooting that left six people wounded after the festival.

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Former Chamber of Commerce President Ed Presnell calls for the end of First Friday after the Friday shooting of six people.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Former Chamber of Commerce President Ed Presnell calls for the end of First Friday after the Friday shooting of six people.

Leaders react to violence

Witness describes crime scene violence



In a news conference Saturday, a group of merchants and downtown residents called for the end of First Friday in its current form. Others say they don’t want to lose an event that brings money and residents to the area.

“I’m afraid if they end First Friday, it will keep people from coming downtown,” said Caren Bricker, the owner of Vintage Ooollee at 1121 Broad St. “That won’t stop the problem.”

Jeff Gorelick, the owner of Ru­ben’s Department Store on 914 Broad St., where two bullet holes were left in his windows from the shooting Friday night, said the event needs to be better-coordinated by someone if it is to continue. He bemoaned the estimated $1,100 it will cost him to repair the windows.

“Who’s going to pay for that? … The arts council or whoever’s in charge? Somebody has to pay for it. I guess me,” he said. “I’m not saying do away with any activities downtown, but somebody has to control it.”

The Greater Augusta Arts Council has been running the event on a very limited scale since 2007, said Brenda Durant, the executive director of the group.

“We’ve made it a very simple event,” she said. The arts council publicizes the event and organizes a few performances, such as roller derby demonstrations and pyrotechnics.

“That’s all we really coordinate,” she said. “First Friday is entirely in the hands of the store owners.”

First Friday began in 1994 as an art gallery walk designed to draw families downtown and showcase businesses. It was originally run by Main Street Au­gusta, which was funded by the Down­town Develop­ment Authority. Main Street Augusta dissolved itself in 2006, and the DDA relinquished the festival for financial reasons. It was then picked up by the arts council in 2007.

Durant said if business owners want to stop playing host to First Friday, all they need to do is close their doors and not allow vendors to set up in front of their stores.

Some business owners said they don’t have a problem with First Friday itself. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be any enforcement of the festival’s hours – 5-9 p.m., according to the arts council’s Web site – and what happens after the official event ends. Friday’s shooting occurred at 11:30 p.m.

“First Friday is from 5 to 9 (p.m.),” said Kimberly Townsend, the owner of Curvitude Boutique at 1033 Broad St. “This happened 2½ hours later.”

Those who want to reinvent First Friday want to do so either at a different venue or time, saying that will still bring money and patronage to downtown.

“Essentially, what it boils down to is nobody will take responsibility for the oversight of First Friday, other than to insist that it is an event that lasts from 5 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. on Friday night,” said Ed Presnell, a downtown resident and former Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce president, who spoke at Saturday’s news conference. “That may be defined. However, there’s a different, unofficial First Friday that begins at that point, and that’s when all the troubles begin. At that point, we have total chaos and lawlessness.”

Even if First Friday ceases to exist, Presnell said, that does not mean people will stop making trouble downtown, and he doesn’t have any answers on how to address that.

Durant said she doesn’t believe ending First Friday will solve the problem.

“The problem is not First Friday. The problem is that we have kids who walk downtown, who live nearby, who are looking for something to do and there is nothing to offer them,” she said. “In my mind, that is the problem that needs to be solved.”

Some questioned whether the curfew, which makes it illegal for anyone younger than 18 to be out between midnight and 5 a.m., is being enforced strongly enough.

“The sheriff’s an elected official. Those are questions that we can ask,” said Augusta Commission member Matt Aitken, who attended the news conference in support of revamping First Friday.

One alternative Presnell suggested is an event similar to First Friday that would be held on Saturday morning to complement the Saturday Market.

He said the point is not to kill First Friday.

“Business owners need a First Friday-type event. That’s not the point,” he said. “The point is to shift it to a safe environment.”

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Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 07/07/12 - 04:02 pm
9
1
Good idea.

A curfew for juveniles is a good idea. But as I posted on the other thread, why isn't some of the $350,000 dollars collected annually for the CADI program used to buy a little extra security for this event? It is my understanding that downtown business owners were sold this tax on that belief. And all I've seen since it's inception is a Segway and a few minimum wage trash picker-uppers. There ought to be enough left over to beef up security a bit.....wonder what the DDA is doing with the rest of that money, besides buying parking meter studies...hmmmm?

EricG
12
Points
EricG 07/07/12 - 04:14 pm
10
1
Agreed First Friday Wasn't the cause

The event that unfolded was caused by the element that moves in AFTER First Friday was officially over. The merchants that help keep downtown alive and thriving should not suffer due to senseless behavior of thugs. If I were the Sheriff I would think that this wonderful opportunity and start locking them up. Think of it a trap to lure them in and then all you need is probable cause. I'm sure the word would travel fast to find another place to conduct their ignorant behavior

blues550
380
Points
blues550 07/07/12 - 06:08 pm
0
1
First Friday Afterglow
Unpublished

It is not the sherriff's business to "shut down" first Friday, it is his business to control the thugs that move in afterward. We stopped going down there on First Firday not because of the decent people attending but because of the hoodlums afterwards And everyone is scared to death of playing the race card here.

Downtown is a wonderful place but the riff raff need to be contained.

waynesmith2
8
Points
waynesmith2 07/07/12 - 06:12 pm
6
0
As I wrote my mother in 1966

As I wrote my mother in 1966 "Don't worry about be Mom, I'm safer in Saigon than you are in Chicago".

allhans
24030
Points
allhans 07/07/12 - 06:53 pm
6
0
You can move them on, but

You can move them on, but then what?

Thuggery is out of bounds and something must be done.

Just My Opinion
5885
Points
Just My Opinion 07/07/12 - 07:17 pm
2
1
Do we have video cameras

Do we have video cameras downtown?? If not, maybe it's time they thought of putting them up? And if the city won't, then maybe the businesses should?? I hate to heap more bills on them (they'd just pass the cost along to their customers) and more civic responsibility, but it's a viable and effective option. In fact, if I had a business, I would think my customers might like the idea that the outside of my place was well covered by security cameras. And maybe the hoodlums would think twice about converging there!

HighSociety
1840
Points
HighSociety 12/21/12 - 05:05 pm
6
0
.

.

scgator
1042
Points
scgator 07/07/12 - 09:02 pm
8
1
The arts council publicizes

The arts council publicizes the event and organizes a few performances, such as roller derby demonstrations and pyrotechnics.

“That’s all we really coordinate,” she said. “First Friday is entirely in the hands of the store owners.”

It appears that now that it is out of hand, the Arts Council is trying to "distance" themselves from any blame or liability...............the bar owners don't want to risk losing any beer drinking money and are willing to let YOU put your life at risk to spend money with them. FIRST FRIDAY SHOULD BECOME THE "LAST FRIDAY".

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/07/12 - 09:31 pm
8
1
If the Downtown Development

If the Downtown Development Authority spent as much time on reducing crime as it does on parking, downtown Augusta would be the new Mayberry.

Riverman1
87034
Points
Riverman1 07/07/12 - 10:26 pm
3
0
First Friday Shootout

The First Friday Shootout is disturbing and has everyone saying enough. Keep in mind, business owners that don’t have anything to do with alcohol are firmly opposed to these events downtown. There can’t be any doubt now that they know what they’re talking about when they warn of the danger and disrupted business. People being shot everywhere and bullet holes in store windows. What’s all this come to?

madgerman
236
Points
madgerman 07/07/12 - 10:59 pm
0
1
Maybe I missed something but
Unpublished

Maybe I missed something but I thought we were a "Nation of laws". Maybe our esteemed non-racist County Commissioneers could take some time to pass some laws with teeth. What is amazing is the arrogance of these thugs toward police and it truly amazes me that the police don't stop them for questioning for any act that is in questionable. I learned a long time ago that if you let a group get away with minor things it isn't long before they graduate to bigger and tougher things.

HighSociety
1840
Points
HighSociety 07/07/12 - 11:59 pm
7
1
I don't think this is an

I don't think this is an alcohol problem. The bars in downtown are open every night ,all month, and the majority of problems occur only one night. That night is FF. I would bet that most of the thugs roaming the streets on that night are not drunk at all, but looking to cause problems. This night is marked on their calendar, and is treated like its club night. If you've ever visited downtown on this night you would see that they don't visit the businesses they walk the sidewalks. Kinda like a meet n greet but with guns.

itsanotherday1
45482
Points
itsanotherday1 07/08/12 - 01:28 am
3
0
Just DON'T let the miscreants

Just DON'T let the miscreants win! Run them off so decent people can enjoy themselves. Make them understand there is no place for them in civilized society.

ByGeorge
117
Points
ByGeorge 07/08/12 - 01:35 am
2
0
Highsociety, you hit the nail

Highsociety, you hit the nail on the head!

seenitB4
90980
Points
seenitB4 07/08/12 - 06:34 am
5
1
Some things need to GWTW

IS THE ATLANTA FREAKNIK OVER?

For many years, especially during the late 80's and early 90's, the Freaknik was considered THE hot spot that many either heard about or was frequently visited to by the hundreds of thousands of black college students (and others) every April.

For many of those years, it lived up to it's name. It was Freak-Nik!!! There were the wild parties on the street, the dancing, the picture taking and of course the freaking.

In fact so many came in 1992, Atlanta was almost shut down. It became an event that heard about through out the world as it was the home of CNN news.

In an effort to tone down some of Freaknik ways, there were numerous attempts to change the nature of the event. They tried to change the name(Black Cultural Something or Freedom Festival...and a few others that didn't quite work out). There were even city sponsored job fairs and event organized block parties. It was a good effort.....

However......

What the city organizers and others failed to realize was that people didn't come to Freaknik to look for jobs or even take on a political agenda. They came for a wild party. It was as simple as that. Much like the New Orleans Mardi-Gras ( an event that celebrates getting wild every year) People came to get away from school or work and have a great time.

But things have changed... drastically. Soon after the Olympics in Atlanta....the event went down hill. The political figures in Atlanta wanted to call a halt to Freaknik. So they established ways to make the event frustrating. Road blocks through out the city made traffic a huge mess. You could not do anything or go anywhere without staying in traffic for hours.

Then other events started to pop up. The Black College Reunion in Daytona and the Kappa Beach party in Galveston, Texas were now grabbing many of the Atlanta Freaknik participants. The 1999 Freaknik was considered the worst of all. It was a Freak-Not. Plenty of the fellas showed up ready to take pictures... but many of the ladies were no where to be found. Many were so disappointed that they have refused to ever come back again.

texsmoke
139
Points
texsmoke 07/08/12 - 07:52 am
1
6
Let it Go

You know we should outlaw cars too. Since the guy saw his GF in a car with another guy and used his car as a weapon to injure them. There is no need to blame the police, First Friday or the businesses. Crime is going to happen regardless. If someone got shot during a bank robbery should we blame the bank for being open?

boodroe
1959
Points
boodroe 07/08/12 - 08:03 am
3
1
Curfew for juveniles

I thought there was already a curfew for juveniles was it removed for the summer?

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 07/08/12 - 08:15 am
1
0
Looks like it was mentioned a
Unpublished

Looks like it was mentioned a couple times.. on first fridays, shut down Broad Street. The sidewalks get over crowded anyway. That way the ones too lazy to get out and walk have to park and walk. With that and additional security that would be the most that could be done without shutting it down completely.

Batman
18
Points
Batman 07/08/12 - 09:05 am
6
0
I disagree...

I disagree with the below comment from Ms. Durant.

Durant said... “The problem is not First Friday. The problem is that we have kids who walk downtown, who live nearby, who are looking for something to do and there is nothing to offer them,” she said. “In my mind, that is the problem that needs to be solved.”

Really? Me and my friends didn't have much to do when we were teenagers; however, we never once thought about harming people or destroying their property. Our community leaders need to stop being politically correct and be more honest about the problem and it's root cause. It's a culture issue. As a whole the people committing these crimes come from a irresponsible culture which lacks person responsibility.

As a nation we will continue to moan and groan about these kind of problems until we change. Thousands of years demonstrate that man can't solve a spiritual problem with money and laws. It's only solved when we humble ourselves, and pray, and seek God's face and turn from our wicked ways. Then God hears from heaven, and He forgives our sin and heals our land. 2 Chronicles 7:14.

No politician, regardless of party, will fix the problems we have. We suffer because we reject God's plan and purpose for our lives. We weren't created to indulge ourselves in a sinful society. Instead we were created by a holy God to worship and serve Him. We not only worship Jesus in church but in our daily routine.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 07/08/12 - 09:17 am
3
1
First one must acknowledge

First one must acknowledge that the young in any culture are attracted to organized events. It is advertized, or sold, and people show up because it is free and open to the public. Free is the action word here. Problems start with losing purpose and organization. It is probably safe as the mall is for most people, but the streets don't have fences...people usually do better inside fences.

Riverman1
87034
Points
Riverman1 07/08/12 - 09:52 am
4
0
Bars v. Businesses and Residents

The First Friday Shootout has brought things to a head. The non alcohol businesses and residents don't want it. The alcohol establishments do. You can't limit what type people walk down the street. More people do go to the bars and clubs on First Friday and the owners like the business and are willing to put up with the street violence. But ask the store owners with bullet holes in their windows how they feel. It's time for this thing to go the way of Freaknik.

Clean Water
11
Points
Clean Water 07/08/12 - 11:07 am
1
0
Augusta A City in Denial!

First Friday just exposes some of the City of Augusta many problems. Proverty, hatred, poor schools, cutting funds to poor communities, not many after school porgrams,silence of the churches, a culture of corrupt politics,violence, racism and drugs just to name a few. There are elderly citizens, that live in fear, in Augusta every day. Not all communities are bad, not all the people are bad but many are. Stopping First Friday will not solve Auguta's many issues.

TParty
6003
Points
TParty 07/08/12 - 11:18 am
2
0
"people usually do better

"people usually do better inside fences." That's a really great freedom phrase right here.

If an anti-gun person said we should get rid of guns- since this a shooting incident- what would the reply be? "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." So- it would stand to say "First Friday doesn't kill people, people kill people? So ban people? Duhjudge would like everyone else in a fence- so maybe that's a solution.

Maybe everyone should have been carrying a gun!!

This is a rare event- do not go overboard and ban things in an over-reaction to this shooting.

Fiat_Lux
15913
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/08/12 - 11:34 am
4
1
As long as we pay

the unprepared, the irresponsible and the amoral to reproduce but not raise offspring, this will continue and escalate.

First Friday is so far down the road from where this kind of antisocial behavior gets addressed that it's probably a waste of time to continue having it. We can't expect to put on something fun and not have the predatory element show up too. Once this bunch arrives, all bets are off.

There simply aren't enough there who aren't the center of their own universes, or who know how to deal with competition for that exalted spot without resorting to the violence we normally expect in toddlers. They're just more able to act on their frustrated rage than most toddlers are.

And they, their parents and their grands back about 3-4 generations are the very ones who are bankrupting our nation, with on-going help of politicians who merrily hand out what the nation's adults work for, in return for the votes of those who only know how to take.

Sorry for the screech, but I'm sick of struggling against stupid, and against wholesale government thievery. And I hate what lies ahead for all of us wage earners. This absurd incident is just a foretaste of what's in store on a much larger scale if the money really does run out.

The savages who deal with minor frustrations like Friday's by shooting each other and everybody around aren't going to just stay at home moaning and cussing when their food and gasoline run out. That part has already started.

galaxygrl
1270
Points
galaxygrl 07/08/12 - 11:22 am
3
0
What this is About

This is about thugs and punks that have been raised by wolves and found their way into downtown when there is something going on. A curfew would help to control them just like it does at the mall. If your under 18 after 6pm where is the adult you are with? First Friday is a great event and bullet holes can happen anywhere not just downtown. First thing everyone always does is panic. Even the police force knows that this element comes from the east end of town later in the evening. Manage them, not the event.

allhans
24030
Points
allhans 07/08/12 - 11:49 am
2
0
This can't be overplayed, no

This can't be overplayed, no way. It was not like if one person had been shot, it was SIX (6) people wounded. This is a disgrace and however it is stopped it won't be soon enough.

Riverman1
87034
Points
Riverman1 07/08/12 - 12:08 pm
2
0
You can't stop people under

You can't stop people under 18 from being on the streets after 6. Some court would blow that away. Midnight is probably the earliest curfew that would fly. That's what the one in effect is now and it does nothing. This happened at 11:30. Shut er down.

galaxygrl
1270
Points
galaxygrl 07/08/12 - 12:25 pm
1
0
Curfew Laws

http://public.findlaw.com/civil-rights/curfew-laws/juvenile-curfew-laws-...
Here is a list that starts from 10pm in different cities.

Riverman1
87034
Points
Riverman1 07/08/12 - 01:00 pm
1
0
GalaxyGirl, Those Don't Start at 10

That link offered little. I clicked on about half of them until I could find one near the bottom that gave the necessary info. That's Wash. DC and it's 11 during Sunday through Thurs. Midnight on Fri. and Sat. and it's only for those under 17.

In addition, the shooters in the Great First Friday Shootout could very well be older than 17. How old were the ones who got shot?

seenitB4
90980
Points
seenitB4 07/08/12 - 01:02 pm
6
0
Sorry to bust your bubble

They tried to contain freaknik too....didn't work

Regency Mall is a prime example of hoodlums taking over the shopping area...& B4 some come on & say I don't know that...I DO KNOW...2 daughters worked there....we watched the demise & felt helpless..the strict policing that it would take to contain this crap is poo pooed by "some" leaders in Augusta......either GET TOUGH or watch a city die out a slow death..just like the Regency Mall.

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