Albany celebrated the Fourth of July with a fireworks extravaganza. Thousands of people attended the event which took place downtown.
ALBANY, Ga. In a memo released to city employees and the media, City Manager James Taylor says that the city will renew efforts to make community gatherings more safe and is asking for public's support and input to make it so in light of Wednesday's fights that led police to abruptly end the Independence Day fireworks show.
The memo, which was written with the title, "Challenges of Today...Hope for the future," outlines Taylor's thoughts and plan-of-action following the fights and subsequent arrests of those who police believe participated in or instigated the fracas that prompted the event to be cut short.
"We refuse to have our community defined by one incident, we are moving forward and ask that
the community move forward with us. We will determine what happened and take action to fix
the problems. Our plan is to continue to serve the community with more events; however, given
what we know, we will make some changes. Some of these changes will take time and others will
cost money, but I think it is important we proceed to make future events downtown safer than
ever, and we ask for your help and continued support," Taylor writes.
After the fight, 17-year-old Desmond Sadique Warren was charged with carrying a pistol while under the age of 18, officials said. Two teens were arrested for fighting and each was charged with disorderly conduct. Cantonese Javar Kennedy, 17, and Antwon Johnson, 19, were each released on less than $130 bail, a Dougherty County Jail spokeswoman said. Warren remains in jail in lieu of $1,000 bail, she added.
Surveillance video, obtained Friday by the The Albany Herald and posted at albanyherald.com, shows people running from the area around Turtle Grove Play Park around 9:40 p.m., before police began clearing the area.
In his memo, Taylor reminded his staff of what he said were the "facts" of the incident:
There were no shots fired nor was anyone stabbed;
The fight was limited to a group of unsupervised juveniles;
City officials and police officers were unable to adequately communicate what was happening to the crowd which led to widespread misinformation and panic.
As a result of the disruption, Taylor says that city officials learned things that they will use moving forward with future events, including better crowd control, restriction of juveniles in participating in events; better lighting for problem areas; improved communications; working to eradicate loitering of those who aren't actively participating in the events and development of a special events risk management plan to plan for disruptions like weather or other unexpected events.
In the memo, Taylor also points to the fact that, for more than 20 years, the city's fireworks show downtown has gone on without any major incidents until this year and that downtown events like Mardis Gras, Flint Fest and Albany State University's Homecoming Parade routinely bring in large crowds without major incidents.
"We ask for an opportunity to earn your confidence again, judge us by what we do going forward, not
by the misconduct of a few," Taylor writes.
Taylor also writes that, going forward, the public should understand that city-sponsored events are not a "childcare service," and that city leaders will consider special provisions to prevent future disruptions including the development of a "special events curfew" for minors.