First Fridays organizers may cancel event next month

Because a rash of violence and crowd issues now dominate the once taciturn art walk, officials are considering cancelling next month’s First Fridays event.

Because of an increased presence of teenaged violence and crowd issues, organizers of the monthly First Fridays Artwalk are considering canceling the Labor Day Weekend event. Owners of businesses along the Broad Street strip that attracts the most number of art walk spectators, along with onlookers, have noticed a distinct change in both tone and demographic over the last several First Fridays events.

One business owner, commenting on the most recent event, replied in an online comment thread that “…there was hardly any business at all. Beyond the teens, whom we all agree are part of the problem, the police are also at fault. No one wants to walk into an area that is…glowing with red and blue lights. I wouldn’t, I would stay away.”

Despite altering the time of the First Fridays event to fall within 5pm-9pm, violence and commotion spread along Broad Street and its parallel sidewalks as mostly teenagers crowded the thoroughfare.

Richmond Police Department Public Information Manager, Gene Lepley, informed RVANews that there were a total of five arrests, all males, including a felony arrest for “possession of a handgun.” Of the arrestees, 4 were aged 15-17, including the individual arrested for possessing a handgun. The other arrestee was  20 years of age. Video of last Friday’s event can be seen here and here.

First Fridays organizer, Christina Newton, indicated to the Richmond Times-Dispatch that school rivalries may be inspiring the agitation among the youth that have been attending the last several First Fridays events, all in summer months. Regardless of the cause of possible violence, which has resulted in a strong police presence, Newton has not yet announced firm plans to cancel next month’s event or any future ones. As it is at this point, cancelation is only one idea among others.

RVANews will continue to update the story as appropriate.

photo by Mr Michael Phams

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