Business Pensacola Politics

Readers tell what happened at Gallery Night

October 26, 2012

We asked readers for their takes on how the Pensacola Police Department handled the re-opening of Palafox at 9 p.m. at the end of the October 19 Gallery Night. The opinions are on both ends of the spectrum. Many expressed support for keeping the street closed until midnight.

One reader emailed me: “I don’t think it was handled well. There was a group of us sitting outside The Leisure Club when it all happened and the police acted as if they were breaking up a mob or something. Everyone that was with us felt the same and actually much worse. It really wasn’t a great example of a friendly “gallery night” atmosphere. Do they not know that the people that walked those streets having a good time were all adults that were there after work. This needs to be addressed if they want to continue to the growth in this city. Ridiculous.

James Turner wrote, “They immediately, and quiet forcefully, start yelling at people to get off of the streets. This is all while they start blaring sirens and flashing lights. It’s annoying, but I’ve gotten used to it. But for tourists, I can only imagine what they’re thinking.”

Patrick Elebash of Elebash Jewelry Company said the Pensacola Police had told the Downtown Improvement Board how they were going to re-open Palafox. “In speaking with City police representatives in meetings about Gallery Night, they made it pretty clear what they have to do to get the streets clear, so the sirens and loudspeakers were no surprise to me,” he wrote.

He observed the process on Friday night and thought it went smoothly considering the officers had to clear the streets at the peak of the event.

“I watched the police clear the streets and from what I saw, I think that they did a good job. In a perfect world, people would move out of the streets without having to get out loud speakers and flash sirens, but unfortunately it doesn’t work.,” wrote Elebash. “I’ve been worried how this would look to the public, so I was paying close attention. I watched outside of our block and thought it went smoothly. I even asked a few people and they seemed like it went fine.”

Sara Beard posted on our Facebook page, “The PPD were doing their job, and no one was listening. They simply drove down the street with sirens and lights like they’ve done in the past, and people walked right back into the street. I definitely did not see any “riot control” tactics. It was actually pretty funny to watch.”

Another couple, ages 54 and 41, attend Gallery Nights regularly were surprised the street was being re-opened.

“We had just finished one of the Historical Society tours and were coming back up Palafox and realized that the streets were being reopened,” wrote Anna. “My boyfriend is from Bay St. Louis. They block whole sections off for events, and it’s a small town. Here we’re rolling the streets up at nine. We had both enjoyed the piano and everyone outside of the Bodacious Olive, but that abruptly came to a halt when the street was reopened. The sidewalks were so crowded that for the most part we ended up walking on Palafox most of the way. We were going to grab something to eat, but decided to go ahead and get out of downtown.”

Not everyone could understand what the police were saying over their loudspeakers, according to Mark Cotton. “The public announcement system (loudspeakers) used from the cars echoed down through the buildings and we couldn’t understand a word,” he wrote. “Nine probably too early anyway.”

——–

We have asked for any video that readers might have of the reopening of Palafox or Mayor Ashton Hayward’s exchange with police. You can email it to rick@inweekly.net

  • Anna October 30, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Since I was quoted in this blog I would like to make one thing very clear that I put in my email to Rick. I think that the Pensacola Police Department acted completely appropriately, and were only following orders.

    I do enjoy when the other businesses step up and sponsor the extended street closing, but that wasn’t the case this time.

    I have never been treated with anything but courtesty from our local police department. I most definitely would not want to trade jobs with any of them.

  • grandot October 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Police actions in opening the street were perfectly in line with what other cities do when a party is over. The naysayers were predicting the problem in advance because they want to party in the street, yet cry foul when the use of public dollars for non-essential services are made. Please ask the mayor, the pres of the CRA board and the DIB to explain when and how the decision to close the street if private funds were not timely received has been strong armed into extended hours repeatedly despite decisions by the committee and businesses who pay for the event determining the need to open in order to preserve the Gallery Night experience.
    Gallery Night is about focusing attention on the art galleries and artistic community of Pensacola. It is not the free street party which has developed afterwards. Please make a distinction and let those who want a free for all drinking party have one, if that is what the property owners and businesses of Palafox and Intendencia/Garden/Gov’t Street wish to pay for. I personally believe that those who interfered with the actions of Pensacola City Police by infering an over- arching structural chart show their own ignorance of the very private permit responsibility which is authorized and for which private payment to officers was paid. If the mayor and Mr. Peacock want to have a street party, then the mayor’s staff may arrange the same and Mr. Peacock might assist in depositing money timely in advance. To interfere in the moment of action was totally inappropriate and an overstepping of personal agenda. There is a professional staff who manages the DIB efforts, and a professional coordinator for the police. No orders in conflict with those individuals and their scope of event management should be allowed by appointed or elected officials who are not within the specific chain of command. The mayor is not the head of the DIB, nor is the new board member Mr. Peacock. Last I knew, the mayor was not the head of the off duty police group who were paid to perform according to permit determinations. For the record, no permit was in place for the streets to remain open, so any liabilities would have washed to the city, as insurance for the DIB was for street closure from 5-9. Dollars add up, so do over-reaching control. Better to use private influence for private actions. Our officers were doing their job and do not deserve the hostility generated by spirited partiers who choose to ignore the law.

  • Popo October 29, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    When was the last time PPD did ANYTHING other than show up at council and complain?

  • Henry October 29, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    “Meanwhile the graffiti artists practice unabated and transients sleep in every nook and cranny. What the hell?”

    With the PPD’s show of force on Gallery Night, I have to ask — when was the last time PPD had a major drug/meth lab bust? This city is an episode of “Breaking Bad” waiting to happen! Do they even go after drug activity or do they let the Sheriff’s Office handle it?

  • Frankie October 29, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    That’s a good idea “nogovernmentnaudouthere”. (What’s a “naud out” anyway??) Since there’s no money to pay police overtime (but you still expect them to WORK overtime) maybe the mayor could donate a month or two of HIS salary to make up for all the gas and dinner reimbursements he’s gotten on the taxpayers tab. He gets plenty of good publicity already but I’m sure he’d love a little more!!

  • nogovernmentnaudouthere October 28, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Maybe the police could sponsor a late gallery night by donatinig their time, one night a year. Seems the police union could use a little good publicity now and then. (Hint Eric)

    A second thought is hang street lights over the intersections, facing north and south. You would use green for party and yellow for run the police are coming.

    With the number of nascar fans attending each gallery night, they could explain the color code to the city folk.

    Finally, place a sandwich board in each intersection on Palafox to indicate the closing time.

  • Nic October 26, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    I don’t understand why the city must get liability insurance to cover a pedestrain only street. Don’t accidents happen morre frequently.

  • Moose October 26, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    It’s a shame that among all of the businesses they couldn’t come up with $3k over the past month between them all to split the cost of the police? You know the businesses net way more than their share of that cost. If that happens again, unfortunately it will probably undo the momentum that they have built over the past few years.

  • Hi there October 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Is it any coincidence the PPD are all over the place Downtown today?

  • Roust em October 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Funny – we have the most docile police force in the country until they get to flex their muscles at Gallery Night. I went a couple of months ago and was standing on the sidewalk of Palafox near the Saengar when they rolled up with lights flashing and significant show of force. Talk about a buzz kill. Meanwhile the graffiti artists practice unabated and transients sleep in every nook and cranny. What the hell?