Originally created 10/05/02

Fight disrupts First Friday activities



They came, they partied, and they ruined First Friday.

That was the consensus of many who witnessed the hordes of people crowding downtown Augusta, the fights and the vandalism after the event Friday.

"This is ridiculous," said Lucrisha Roth, a patron who witnessed the aftermath of a fight in front of Metro, a downtown bar and coffeehouse. "I've been downtown for years, and this has never happened."

During that fight, a man was thrown headfirst into a window, shattering the glass.

Despite added police presence - about 20 Richmond County Sheriff's deputies - the crowds appeared at times to be too much to control.

Sheriff's Col. Gary Powell said Saturday that he called additional units from the south and north precinct shortly after midnight to free up congested sidewalks.

Police even blocked entrances to 12th Street and side streets such as Ellis Street to stop people from entering downtown.

It didn't work.

"I don't have any idea know who (these people) are, but they're coming out of the woodwork," Col. Powell said.

The monthly event was fairly quiet until midnight, when a large group began to fight on the corner of Broad and 11th streets. Several other fights erupted, and at least 12 people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, according to jail records.

Mace was used to break up the fight in the 1100 block of Broad Street. The window of restaurant Louie J's was cracked during the scuffle, Col. Powell said.

Police also responded to a call of gunfire about 1 a.m. at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on Broad Street. The area was searched but no shell casings were found, authorities said.

By 1:30 a.m., police were using intercoms to disperse the crowds.

"First Friday is officially over. Start moving now," an officer ordered.

On Saturday, Main Street Augusta member Brenda Durant said that next month the promotion committee would enforce regulations of acoustic-only bands, vendor registration and a 5-10 p.m. festival time. Friday's events would not affect the festival as a whole, she said.

"I believe that it's an event that's planned to continue," Ms. Durant said. "The guidelines we were working on would be exactly type of things that would prevent things like last night."

Chris Naylor, the executive director of Downtown Authority and Main Street Augusta, would not comment on Friday's events.

"It would be inappropriate for me to make any comments until I talk to the promotions committee of Main Street Augusta," he said.

Reach Albert Ross at (706) 823-3339 or albert.ross@augustachronicle.com.