WINSTON-SALEM – In the wake of Friday’s fights in downtown Winston-Salem, where around 300 teenagers were gathered, officials are speaking out in the hopes of keeping the area calm this summer.
Police say the fights broke out around 8:14 p.m. after groups of teenagers gathered in the area of Fourth, Marshall and Cherry streets. They say groups of juveniles began running through the crowded downtown area and mainly gathered at Winston Square Park, where officers were able to gain control of the crowd.
Two teenagers were arrested, and four more were taken into custody before being released to their parents.
“If we just had a fist fight, and they just got out of school, what’s going to happen next? All it takes is for one person to do something crazy and we end up with some body bags,” said Shannon Jessup, of Elasya B’s Candy Tree, which is located downtown.
Jessup says he’s seen events, like what happened Friday, in the past.
“They would stand out and dance in the middle of the street and dance on the corners and cursing and hollering at each other,” said Jessup.
Mayor Allen Joines knows fighting teenagers and pepper spray don’t paint the best picture of what downtown Winston-Salem has to offer.
“I’ve heard some individuals say the pepper spray kind of wafted up to where they were sitting and created a negative experience,” said Joines.
Joines says parents are partially to blame.
“We’ve seen some parents drive up and drop kids off without much thinking about what’s going on,” he said. “Downtown is not a daycare or a babysitting service.”
Tim Grant, director of Winston-Salem Recreational Parks, says they’re trying to give teenagers somewhere to go this summer. It’s called Fairground Fridays. There will be a skate park, dances, games and prizes to be had, at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds, starting Friday, June 27.
“If teens just want to come here and hang out, in a safe environment, they’re welcome to do that,” said Grant.
He says there will be adult supervision and a police presence.
“We feel that the teens, by coming to this location, will feel safe and they will act appropriately and we don’t anticipate any problems,” said Grant.
Fairground Fridays will run through Aug. 1. It’s a move that people, like Jessup, hope will keep downtown Winston-Salem calm.
“We like to sit out and have a peaceful meal, and some of that activity just wasn’t what we were looking for,” said Jessup. “Don’t drop your kids off and leave them to their own vices, because obviously when you get a bunch of kids together, there’s no telling what they’ll do.”