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 firstname.lastname@example.org