A Pennsylvania Reader Remembers An Earlier Urban Beach Week Riot—Virginia Beach Greekfest 1989
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Re: Nicholas Stix’s article “Haitian Youth” Raymond Herisse And Urban Beach Week: Coming To An America Near You—Unless There’s An Immigration Moratorium

From: Dave Hook [Email him]

This excellent article describes an ever increasing plague of violence that typifies many urban events.  But the Beach Week riots are not exactly new.  There was a similar race riot during 1989 Greekfest in Virginia Beach , Va.   The diversity celebraters nearly tore the resort city down and required the National Guard to quell the rioting

Curiously there seem to be very few articles on this atrocity left on the internet from a search of the topic.  No doubt there has been a major effort to sweep this under the rug.  It’s going to get so no urban event is safe and tenable anymore.  The comments below are  all I’ve been able to find—most of the articles are accusations of racism and police brutality.

See earlier letters from Dave Hook.

James Fulford writes: Dave Hook is right—most of the MSM coverage seems to be about racism rather than rioting. See The painful legacy of 1989's Greekfest endures, By Aaron Applegate, The Virginian-Pilot, September 8, 2009, where the "pain" seems to be felt by African-Americans, not retailers or victims. However, I'm reproducing some comments by police officers who were present in Virginia Beach, answering a question by a high school student who had been told by their English teacher about the excessive force used.


From Officer.com’s public forum, an archived discussion from February 22, 2001

  Va. Beach Greekfest 1989 Race riots

1.   I was living in Va. Beach when we had the riots. It started off as 'Greekfest' whereby mostly black fraternities would come to the Beach every Labor Day. Each year it continued to grow and eventually it barely resembled its' original purpose. Thousands of young college age people would pack the Beach oceanfront every year (mostly students from historically black colleges, such as Norfolk State , Hampton , Howard, etc..) I point this out only because the media later tried to make it into a racial issue.

The crowds got rowdier and larger, the year of the riots the crowd was estimated at 100,000. Anyway, some drunk student fell from a balcony and when the ambulance responded a crowd that had formed began throwing bottles and other debris. When the police tried to break up the crowd it only got worse. Some people came to the city with the sole intention of causing problems. The crowds began throwing rocks through store windows and looting the stores. Cars would pull up and everyone would jump out and do a 'smash and grab'.

Eventually, the Governor declared a state of emergency and ordered us to clear the streets by any means necessary. Of course, the students being young, decided that they had the "right" to this and the "right" to do that. When the crowds refused to disperse and continued throwing rocks then force had to be used.

After the fact a flood of lawsuits was filed against the city and the various police agencies that helped out. To my knowledge every one was dismissed. The city had installed cameras throughout the oceanfront and just about everything was caught on film. In addition, you may remind your teacher that more police officers were hurt than were students.

2.   I moved from Hampton , Va. In 1990, right after one of the fests. It was NASTY over there. It started off innocently enough with the fun and everything, but once all the alcohol hit, shortly after midnight, all hell broke loose. There was looting, bottles, rocks and everything else thrown at the police and general chaos. Of course, the next day, word spread about the racist behavior of the VSP and Va. Beach PD.

My reply was to the lines of, is it racist because there were white (and black)officers trying to quell an angry mob of black students? If so, how can that be? What were they supposed to do, say "oh well, let 'em go tear up everyone's livelihood here, after all, they'll be gone in the morning. Lord knows we don't need the negative press we'll get when we try to break it up."

I'm sure people got hurt. On both sides of the law. I'm sure there are tales of "brutality", and true, depending on your views of it, there could have been. But, what about the need for it? Would it have been better if VBPD had said, "ummm, OK, folks....please...listen up, I have something really important to ask of you. Ya know, this out of hand, so we need to arrest you. Please put the supplied handcuffs on one another and file orderly into the back of these waiting vans..." No. when faced with violence, sometimes you have to respond with violence.

BCR. Been there, done that, doin' it again in another month or so. It's hot, it's windy it's noisy. But it's really not AS bad as what the media shows and hypes. We do have fights and we do have those who tend to go overboard, but it's gotten a little better over the last few years. Well, since DBPD and VCSO shot and killed someone who pulled a gun on the crowd.

Bike Weeks. I love doing that. Great people, always respectful. We have more trouble with the locals than anyone else. If we could only stop the fatal crashes and the bike thefts.

3.   I live near VB and the city prides it self on being the safest large (500,000+) city in the US . They have a top notch PD and SO, and like any large agency, they have some issues.

I went to one of the Greekfest weekends and can tell you it was nothing like the large gatherings I've seen there in the past. I saw everything from vandalism, theft, public disturbances, foul language, obscene gestures to tourists and police, to public urination (openly, on the sidewalks, not in the bushes).

Don't misunderstand me, it wasn't everyone, or even most of the people there, but it was bad enough that police had to respond with force, which escalated the situation. Any time that happens around here, it's a race issue. I think the media use the angle to stir up trouble so they have something to report.

There are a million and a half people in our metropolitan area, so it's a statistical certainty that there will be allegations of racism and brutality. If the same guy says the sun came up today in the west, did it?

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