VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Pharrell Willilams organized Something in the Water to change the tide of College Beach Weekend in Virginia Beach.
Many who’ve lived in Hampton Roads awhile remember Greekfest weekend back in 1989, and another particularly violent weekend that happened 6 years ago. Both damaged the Oceanfront and race relations.
The looting along Atlantic Avenue and police in riot gear, it all got out of hand quickly Labor Day Weekend 1989.
Thousands of students from historically black colleges and universities came to the Oceanfront for some spring break fun.
Our cameras were there all that weekend and captured a huge crowd chanting, “No violence, no violence, no violence.”
However their chants of “no violence” were met by chants that echoed the song of that summer, Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” That chant turned into “fight the police.”
Looters stole thousands of dollars in T-shirts, jewelry and candy.
“I’m very upset, and I’m pissed off at the city … because we were assured the National Guard was going to be on call,” one shop owner said back then.
The city did in fact have the National Guard on standby for the weekend. That upset college students who didn’t feel welcome.
One young lady told our reporter, “They don’t have room service, they’re not cleaning the rooms, not doing their jobs, they discourage us because they can’t blatantly say, ‘We don’t want y’all black kids in Virginia Beach.'”
It took more than a million dollars to clean up the destruction and years to clean up the Oceanfront’s reputation.
Then came College Beach Weekend 2013.
“I’ve never seen anything like that — hands down, worst it’s ever been,” restaraunt owners told 10 On Your Side.
Police reported three shootings, three stabbings, three robberies, two assaults and 148 arrests.
People were bleeding on the streets. One shop owner told us a man seen on her security camera waited nearly an hour for an ambulance.
“It’s hard when you call for help and nobody responds,” she said.
Two violent weekends, two decades apart, creating destruction and division.
One young lady told us after the 2013 incidents, “I mean it happens when you get a lot of people together, that stuff happens.”
It did happen in the past, but everyone is hoping history will not repeat itself.
The past weekends had no organized events, and that’s the reason Pharrell stepped in with the concerts and festival activities.