|Black Columnist for Indy Star claims Black Expo was basically a "martial law" event|
After the violence at the 2010 Black Expo, the peace that ensued in 2011 was cause for massive celebration in the Indy Star.
Today, we learn this from Erika Smith:
It was only a year ago that Tanya Bell, president and CEO of Indiana Black Expo, stood grimly in front of a bank of TV cameras, trying to somehow explain the bursts of gunfire that left 10 teens injured during the nonprofit group's annual Summer Celebration.
On Monday, she faced the cameras again, but this time with an air of pride.
"This is a victory," Bell declared.
No one got shot.
No one got beat up in a brawl.
There weren't gangs of teenagers running around unsupervised.
The free concert went off without a hitch Friday night at the American Legion Mall. So did the youth concert Saturday night at the Indiana Convention Center.
Indeed, Summer Celebration was safe. Black Expo passed the public's test to put on a violence-free event.
Cities like Newark, Baltimore, Atlanta, St. Louis, Chicago, Columbia, Cleveland and Philadelphia have all declared curfews this summer in a move to offset Black criminal activity. Curfews are only needed [for white people] in times of martial law when a natural disaster or war make them necessary.But at what cost?
It looked like the government had declared martial law after the sun went down Friday.
Police were dozens deep on Pennsylvania Street across from the American Legion Mall. They were on foot, on bikes and in cars. On Meridian Street, there were even more cops, plus civilians who had vowed to help keep the peace.
Even people in the audience were peering through the dark, watching for trouble -- while, of course, singing along to old-school R&B.
On Saturday, the police presence wasn't quite as heavy, but officers were definitely around -- inside the convention center and on the streets nearby.
I kept thinking: All of this so people can have fun? Long term, how is this going to affect the mood of an event that's supposed to be a "celebration"?
Bell admits opinions were varied.
Some thought the police presence was too much. Some said they liked it because they felt safe. Others stayed away altogether.
Overall, Black Expo officials predicted attendance would be up from last year. Several events pulled in more people than ever before, including the education conference and corporate luncheon.
"I think the numbers look pretty impressive," Bell said.
At the same time, only about 40 people were arrested Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- not too far off from an average weekend Downtown.
I understand why a heavy police presence was necessary at this year's Summer Celebration.
But the fact that it was necessary still strikes me as extremely sad and slightly ridiculous -- like watching a Transportation Security Administration agent pat down an old woman with a walker or look suspiciously at a baby in a stroller.
How long will the need for safety trump everything else?
What will happen if three years pass without incident at Summer Celebration? Will attendees be so welcoming of the heavy police presence then?
I doubt it.
Bell says Black Expo and police will examine their security plans in the coming weeks. Based on what worked and didn't work this year, things could change next year.
Going forward, I hope there's consideration given not only to the safety of the attendees but also to their ability to feel comfortable enough to have fun.
It's a delicate balance, one that will have to be tweaked constantly over the next few years if Black Expo wants to keep meeting the needs and wants of blacks in Indianapolis.
Otherwise, the "victory" will be short-lived.
This is how a peaceful, successful all-Black event transpires: an overwhelming presence of law enforcement agents with guns locked and police ready to strike without hesitation is paid for by [primarily] white taxpayers who do everything possible to stay away from these 'cultural' events when they occur.
It's time to start judging by character folks. That a massive police presence is needed to keep the peace among upper and middle-class Black people at their own cultural events and that veritable martial law must be declared to keep them safe from each other is an indicator that the character of the bulk of the participants has been found wanting.