Is Street Nic a wholesome, positive celebration of African-American music, unity, and pride, or a potential riot in the making? Metro doesn’t know, and apparently it’s not taking any chances.
With the event less than two weeks away, organizers say the city has changed the rules that would allow Street Nic to proceed as planneda move that has angered many African Americans here and led to charges of racism.
In late January, a group of young African-American citizens began organizing what they describe as a “free multicultural street celebration” that would use music to focus on “family unity and community pride.” Some 50,000 people were expected to attend the street fair, called Street Nic, which was scheduled for April 23-25. The event has already been held twice without incident in Nashville, organizers say. Last-minute Metro maneuvering, however, has sent Street Nic scrambling to find a new venue. Street Nic co-organizer John Smith said that, despite complying with all of the city’s requests for holding the event, his group has been given the runaround by Metro for months. Late Monday, Smith says, Metro’s attorneys abruptly classified Street Nic as a “mass gathering.” This would require Street Nic’s organizers to meet several additional financial and insurance requirementsconditions, they claim, that were deliberately devised to stop the event.
Music festivals like Fan Fair and Summer Lights are classified as “special events” and have less stringent requirements. But Mayor Phil Bredesen says this distinction is a red herring, since Street Nic’s organizers have yet to meet the requirements for any type of event in Nashville. Bredesen strongly denied that this was a “black-white issue,” and said the city would welcome the event at the Bicentennial Mall if all requirements were met.
Metro Police Chief Emmett Turner said, “I told the Street Nic people that even if there were little green Martians coming down, based on the history of the event, I would have made the same decisions. My concern is for the safety, life, and property in this city.”
Since they say they cannot meet Metro’s new rules, Street Nic’s backers began making plans to move the event to a farm in Mt. Juliet owned by Frank Bashaw. But Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe said that his office held a permanent injunction against having events like Street Nic on the Bashaw farm.
“I don’t know what they’re doing in Nashville, but I’ll do what it takes, blocking the roads and highways, to keep it (Street Nic) from happening here,” Ashe said.
Bredesen said he anticipated that Street Nic’s backers would play the race card sooner or later; he was right. “This is an example of continuing racism by Metro government and police,” says Ray Winbush, director of Fisk University’s Race Relations Institute.
Adds Nashville attorney Cyrus Booker, who’s consulted to the organizers, “On the surface, you see a lot of events with this kind of attendance, but we don’t seem to have problems with those.”
Nashville-based event producer Kimberly Steger said it was “unusual” that Metro figures out a way to host large events like Fan Fair and Summer Lights but “can’t handle Street Nic.”
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