Atlantans say annual gathering too lewd
ATLANTA -- The party may be over for Freaknik, Atlanta's
annual spring festival for black college students.
Shocked by TV footage of gangs of men groping women
during the festival last month, the city's welcoming
committee for the street party is asking Mayor Bill
Campbell to withdraw Atlanta's support. "When
individuals say they want to come to Freaknik, they come
with a mentality that it is an open season on women," said
George Hawthorne, who heads the committee. "Their main
intent is to come for some lewd and sexual experience."
Aside from free-for-all fondling, Freaknik has earned a
reputation for producing monumental traffic jams and
sporadic looting. Many businesses close during the rite of
spring, which took place April 17-19 this year.
Campbell, who is black, tried to discourage the event
until criticism from black leaders prompted him to form the
welcoming committee in 1996. The city has since sponsored
concerts and other events to help control the party.
But because of the sexual antics this year, the
committee plans to recommend on Friday that the city scrap
all Freaknik events except for a job fair, said Hawthorne,
who is black.
Video broadcast last week on WSB-TV showed several women
being chased by men grabbing their buttocks. One woman was
seen flailing her arms to fight off a mob. Another fought
to get away from men who lifted her dress as she was posing
for a photograph.
MTV aired an hour-long show on Freaknik on Tuesday,
showing men disrobing and women being fondled as they
danced among mobs of men.
Hawthorne, who helped monitor the crowds, said he pulled
a woman from a swarm of 20 to 30 men who were trying to
"She had her underwear around her knees and her dress was
up over her head," he said. "If it had not been for me
intervening she would have potentially been raped in broad
Some black college students said Freaknik is no more
crude or dangerous than the antics of white students who go
to the beach for spring break.
"It's disgusting and it's dangerous, but it's everywhere
you have college students," said Sharita Trimuel, a senior
at the University of Georgia. "Panama City Beach, Daytona
Beach, Cocoa beach -- it's the same thing, only this time
it's in the city."
Past Freaknik crowds reached 250,000. This year's event
drew an estimated 50,000, according to the police.
Atlanta's entire force of 1,500 officers was called in to
work 12-hour shifts.
Four rapes, six sexual assaults and four shootings were
reported during the event. No one was killed. Police made
481 arrests, 45 for felonies.
Devin White, a member of Hawthorne's committee and
student body president at Clark Atlanta University, agreed
the city should rescind its welcome. Surveys indicate the
vast majority of visitors aren't even students, but people
in their mid-20s and early 30s. "It puts a negative
connotation on black college students," White said. "If
anything negative happens, it's going to be looked at as if
it's black college students doing these things."