The good news is that last week’s Broad Street gunfighter pointed his firearm up, rather than out. Perhaps he was duck hunting. Regardless, the actions of one irresponsible pistolero have, once again, drawn the perceived problems downtown into sharp relief.
Questions, which might have been forgotten over the course of a news cycle or two, are once again being bandied about. Has First Friday run its course? Is downtown dangerous? Should there be curfews? Increased police presence? Martial law?
Of course not. But is it time for a change?
I’m not suggesting people save First Friday or, as some parties have suggested, Respect Downtown. Those are nice sentiments, but pretty passive and more suited to the inside of a greeting card than on a realistic plan of action. The time for saving and respecting has passed.
It’s time to take back First Friday.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a call to arms. I think there have been quite enough arms downtown, thank you very much. I’m not suggesting people march in the streets, picket, protest or, for the sake of all that’s good in the world, occupy anything. But I am encouraging active participation.
Look, an increased police presence downtown would be nice, but a more effective approach would be for people, the people who care about First Friday and downtown, to police themselves.
There are a lot of people who are passionate about downtown. People that work and live and play there.
I don’t blame them. In fact, I count myself among their number.
Those are the people who should be taking responsibility for the health and welfare of Broad Street and beyond. That, of course, does not mean stepping in and taking a bullet should, improbably, another gun incident take place. But it does mean coming out, in overwhelming numbers, and showing those who might not know better the advantages of good behavior.
Look, there are very few fistfights at Disneyland. It’s because it’s the happiest place on Earth. Why do you think that is? Is it because people love to stand in lines and pay $7 for a bottle of water? Of course not. It’s because people walk through those gates wanting, and expecting, to have a good time. And then a sort of groupthink starts to occur. Because they see themselves surrounded by people with that same goal, it not only seems possible, it seems probable.
The same thing can happen downtown, and there’s no time like the present to test the theory.
This week’s First Friday looks like it’s going to be a big one. Not only will festivities, much missed, return to the Augusta Common but the oft-ignored Jessye Norman Amphitheatre will be doing what it does best – hosting some rock bands. Personally I’m looking forward to some Tara Scheyer with a Bloodkin chaser.
So let’s not be passive in our affection for downtown. Let’s get out and be a part of it. Let’s show those who cry and criticize, who stay at home out of fear or apathy, what jewel this city is blessed with.
Let’s all go downtown this Friday. Let’s all take it back.