While horses race, Ky. police aim to stop cruising
By ELIZABETH DUNBAR
Associated Press Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky.- City officials say they are determined to clamp down on a Derby weekend tradition that has ballooned in popularity in recent years: an impromptu parade of souped-up cars that cruise the city's main drag, stereos blaring.
Cruising has attracted thousands of predominantly black youths, both local and from out-of-town. They gather along a 5 1/2-mile stretch of Broadway to see and be seen in flashy cars, and couldn't care less about the horse race across town at Churchill Downs.
Four people were shot, one fatally, during Derby weekend last year, and there were 65 arrests, mostly for disorderly conduct and alcohol consumption. Citing the violence, the mayor and police chief have announced that this time officers will turn away revelers and enforce the city's anti-cruising ordinance.
Derby cruising turned neighborhoods and business corridors along Broadway into "uninvited raucous, open-air parties where violence, drugs, alcohol and guns are commonplace," said Matt Kamer, a spokesman for Mayor Jerry Abramson. "In recent years, cruising has resulted in scores of arrests for drugs, assault and even murder."
During most of the weekend, police will limit access along Broadway, and they are handing out 20,000 passes to people who live and work there.
Meanwhile, the local American Civil Liberties Union has expressed concern about the potential for racial profiling. Activists have posted signs warning youths about the police presence and planned to patrol neighborhoods.
"We are concerned there will be confrontations," said Raoul Cunningham, president of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Police began their Derby weekend enforcement efforts Thursday night, making 13 arrests and issuing 15 citations along the Broadway corridor, five of them specifically for cruising.
Alternative events planned include a community barbecue, a hip-hop show and a celebrity basketball game. But community leaders and police agree some people will try to cruise anyway.
"They're upset at the system," said the Rev. Louis Coleman, a community activist who heads the Justice Resource Center. "They're going to rebel."
At Millennium Fadz Barber Shop on West Broadway, people agreed that the police presence wouldn't stop cruising.
"It's going to be impossible to control," said 20-year-old Justin Sloss, who is black and has watched Derby cruising in Louisville since high school.
"It's just what we do. We don't go to Churchill," he said. "They're acting like black people are the only ones who commit crimes."
While shaving a client's head, barber Shon Kenemore said city officials are overreacting, exaggerating the problems and wasting money.
"I don't think they understand the culture that goes with Derby cruising," Kenemore said.
Kamer said the mayor and police Chief Robert White met extensively with neighbors and business owners along Broadway to decide how to respond to the problems caused by cruising. The affected neighborhoods are predominantly black.
Troy Hayes, who was shining the wheels and silver rims Thursday on his '77 Oldsmobile Cutlass, said the police officers and limited access on Broadway will keep him away this weekend. He's headed to Florida.
"It's something I'm not going to want to be around," he said.
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City government: http://www.louisvilleky.gov
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