Downtown Improvement Board member John Peacock is disputing the local police union’s version of a Gallery Night incident it brought before the Pensacola City Council last night. For starters, he said he did not refer to officers as ‘terrorists.’
“Did I use the word ‘terrorists?’ Yes. Was it directed at police? No,” Peacock said today.
During last night’s council meeting, members of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 71, requested an investigation into Mayor Ashton Hayward’s actions during the Oct. 19 Gallery Night in downtown. The FOP told the council that the mayor misused his position and intimidated officers when they tried to reopen the streets at 9 p.m.; the union said that Peacock also spoke with an officer and told her the police’s methods—lights, loudspeakers—made them look like ‘terrorists.’
Peacock said today that he told the officer that the scene resembled that of a terrorist-attack aftermath.
“It looked like something really bad happened,” he said. “Like a terrorist attack happened. It just looked chaotic.”
Previous Gallery Nights have lasted until midnight, with roads left closed to vehicular traffic. Those late hours were dependent on local businesses footing the bill for police presence. For the Oct. 19 event, no business was paying for the extended hours and the DIB scheduled it to end at 9 p.m.
City of Pensacola Spokesman Derek Cosson said today that there was “a lot of confusion” regarding the time change.
“The mayor was not aware that the street was shutting down earlier,” he said. “So, we had a little breakdown in communication.”
Peacock said he had learned in an email from Kim Kaminski, of the city’s Neighborhood Services department, that World of Beer had agreed to fund the extended hours. It surprised him when police told him they had directions to clear the streets at 9 p.m.
“Ashton had just called me a minute ago,” Peacock recalled. “I said, ‘Ashton, what the hell’s going on?’”
Later, Peacock said he learned from the management at World of Beer that the business was hoping that other establishments would also contribute to the $3,000 that was needed to extend the hours. When they didn’t, neither did World of Beer.
“So, that email was not accurate,” Peacock said.
The recent DIB appointee said that, while there was a miscommunication issue, there had also been a need to intervene with the officers clearing of the street. He said “sometimes you have to get involved to stop something that’s gotten out of control.”
“The interesting thing is, while they’re throwing Ashton and me under the bus, there are times when leaders have to get involved because circumstances are different,” Peacock said. “There was obviously tons of miscommunication and people were just following orders, but sometimes orders have to be changed due to circumstances.”
Cosson said that Mayor Hayward may issue a statement regarding the issue later today. City Council decided last night to gather more information—to “hear both sides of the story”—and consider the appropriateness of an investigation at the Nov. 13 Committee of the Whole meeting.