Annual Spring Freaknik Crowds Converge On Atlanta
ATLANTA (AP) _ Like thousands of other young blacks who converged on Atlanta on Friday, Timothy Eleby just wanted to have fun.
``I’m here to take pictures of the girls and just have a good time,″ said Eleby, a 23-year-old student from Washington University in St. Louis.
The students began arriving Thursday for this year’s edition of the huge spring street fest called Freanik, ignoring dire warnings about traffic gridlock and violence.
More than 200,000 people, mostly college students, were expected in Atlanta through the weekend.
On Friday, cars from New York, Michigan and Indiana already were crawling down Peachtree Street blaring music as their passengers videotaped the scene and yelled to revelers hanging out near the curb.
For the most part, the crowds are ``very orderly,″ Atlanta Police Chief Beverly Harvard said late Friday afternoon.
There had been 15 arrests since Thursday on charges including disorderly conduct, marijuana possession and traffic violations. Thirty cars had been impounded.
The rite of spring began in 1982 as a picnic held by the D.C. Metro Club, a group of Washington natives who attended predominantly black colleges in Atlanta.
It has grown in recent years despite the city’s attempt to discourage it, drawing participants from mostly black colleges, many of which are within a day’s drive of Atlanta.
Police planned to control traffic with blockades and ID checks. Some residents left town and others shuttered their businesses.
A sign left behind at a downtown antique shop read: ``Have Fun. Be Safe. Open Mon.″
Some 200,000 young people showed up last year, angering many locals with huge traffic jams and behavior both lewd and crude.
This year, the city imposed strict traffic restrictions and increased the police presence.
Anticipating heavy crowds, Gov. Zell Miller closed all downtown state offices at noon. Georgia State University also closed at noon, and most midtown restaurants closed for the weekend.
Traffic was at a standstill by 9:30 p.m. at the midtown intersection of North Avenue and Courtland Street, where police had funnelled traffic.
But businesses in areas paralyzed by last year’s party reported few problems Friday night.
``It’s been slow because of the roadblocks, very slow,″ said Sekou Richen, manager of a gas station and convenience store.
Khomeini Sutton, 19, a student at DeKalb College in suburban Atlanta, came with the same mind as Eleby.
``I just want to have fun _ no fights, no violence and no police in the way,″ he said. ``As long as they control the traffic, it’ll be fine.″