RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – NBC12 broke some disappointing news to Richmonders Friday night. Next month's First Fridays Art Walk has been canceled. This comes after fights broke out at last week's event and police arrested several teens.
The event director cites the fact next month's Art Walk falls on Labor Day weekend as the main reason for the cancellation and mentions the increase in crime in a statement but business owners explained that's the real reason. They need to figure out how to make this event safe again.
YouTube video from August's First Fridays shows what Erica Kembell describes as "chaos."
"It was just kind of out of control," she said.
She was working inside Lift Coffee Shop as fights broke out on Broad Street and police rushed to the area. At one point, they blocked off sections of the busy road.
"The kids were being very unruly, very disrespectful," Kembell recalled. "If you tried to work with them they didn't want to acknowledge that at all. They were rude and we had a lot of trouble trying to make this a happy environment for the people who do come down here to enjoy themselves."
We learned police arrested four boys between 15 and 17 and one 20 year old man. Four were charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and one of the teens faces a gun charge.
Couple that with the Labor Day holiday and organizers decided it was best to put September's gathering on hold.
"It's really disappointing," Kembell told us. "It's something that everyone around here really enjoys and we're trying to build up the community but after what happened last time I just don't think it's safe for anybody."
The Art Walk director said organizers will meet later this month to discuss what happens next and how they can make this event both safe and enjoyable. Its future, though, is uncertain.
Gallery owners are hoping it's not a permanent decision because it would affect their bottom lines
"We do get a lot of people in and we do make sales at First Fridays so it will affect us from that point of view," said Ghostprint Gallery co-owner Geraldine Duskin.
Meetings are expected throughout August and September with the goal of continuing what has become a Richmond tradition. First Fridays Art Walk is in its tenth year.