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Update: Extra Police Called Help Disperse Crowd, 16 Arrested After Coventry Fair

South Euclid and Shaker Heights police departments called to assist Cleveland Heights police in clearing streets after Coventry Street Arts Fair, and some arrested

Updated 3:45 p.m. Tuesday

UPDATE: Next fair may be canceled: http://patch.com/A-jG28

Groups of kids on Coventry Road apparently wanted the party to last a little longer.

But according to some witnesses, the end of the fair turned violent. 

The was scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, but it took police more than an hour to get crowds to leave.

Cleveland Heights City Council Member Cheryl Stephens was there at the end from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and she said at first police calmly tried to clear the streets for about 45 minutes.

“Of course they were kids, so they kept walking up and down the street, and it was 7 o’ clock before the street was cleared. To my recollection, there were about 20 (Cleveland Heights) police officers, and we called South Euclid and Shaker to provide additional assistance on Euclid Heights and Mayfield,” Stephens said. “There were teens that congregated at the P.E.A.C.E. Park, a large group of them, and there were a large number of teens who congregated at the two gas stations at the intersection of Mayfield and Coventry. And those kids did have to be dispersed." 

She said a few kids threw punches as well, but that the situation was quickly controlled by officers. 

“There were a couple of occasions where kids got into fights, but we did not have any wholesale brawling,” she said. “Any kids that came to blows were immediately separated by police officers. For the most part, kids behaved themselves.”

Police Chief Jeffrey Robertson said the department arrested 16 teenagers for fighting or drinking alcohol after the fair, and though it was difficult to determine, he estimates hundreds of kids congregated in the street.

Mary Dunbar, who was working at the Cleveland Heights Bicycle Coalition booth, called the events "upsetting." 

"Until 4 p.m., , but by 6 p.m. the crowd was overwhelming teenagers who were there looking for excitement, not art.  The racing up and down the street and one violent incident that I witnessed after the fair ended were entirely predictable, and our police dealt with situations swiftly.  A woman vendor whose merchandise was scattered in the melee told me that she would never come back," she said. 

One witness said he saw about 100 kids hanging out near the former Centrum Theater. 

"I left right before the fights. They were congregating in groups. Trying to talk to girls. Loitering and being teenagers, it happens," said Wes McEnany via Twitter. "(The fair was) a great experience, but towards the end 100 plus teens congregated by the theatre with no discernible purpose."

Last year, the fair was scheduled from 6 p.m to 9 p.m. on Thursday nights throughout the summer. The event was moved to two Sunday afternoons to give vendors more time and to create a more "family-friendly" atmosphere, said Steve Presser, owner of and member of the Coventry Village Special Improvement District, which organized the event. 

“I have no clue if the kids thought it was going to go on longer or what,” O'Neil said, and added that often nearby police forces are called upon to help close down festivals. 

But otherwise, she described the day as “beautiful,” and she said it wasn’t until after the fair that problems started.

“Everyone was having a great time, and as we got to the last hour more and more kids came, maybe not realizing it was going to end at 6,” she said. “I thought the police did an incredible job, and I thought it was wise on a Sunday night and call our sister cities to help us out.”

Stephens said you could barely walk up and down Coventry when it was near closing, but did not know an estimate for the crowd. 

"The most overwhelming piece was just the sheer number of people on Coventry Road," she said.

Last year, the fair ended on a bad note as well when fights broke out, according to a July 2010 article in The Sun Press. The future of the festival was threatened.

Dunbar offered solutions for the next fair to avoid spoiling what was overall a successful afternoon, including charging admission. 

"In downtown Cleveland, Tower City has a parental involvement program that requires youth under 18 to be accompanied by an adult, parent or legal guardian after 2:30 p.m., seven days a week.  In general, our city must have more authority to deal with loitering and curfew violations," she said. "Importantly, this is an opportunity to engage a diverse group of parents to come together and devise solutions to deal with such disruptive behavior.  With Coventry and other business districts planning events this summer, we must have policies and plans in place to avoid a repeat of what happened yesterday."

The next Coventry Street Arts Fair is scheduled for July 24, and more information is available on Coventry Village's website

Calls made to local business owners were not immediately returned, but look for updates on this article soon. 

Glinda Smith June 28, 2011 at 01:39 PM
It was a flash mob instigated through Twitter. How do we stop that? Charging admission is not going to help as there are places to gather at both ends of the street that are not part of the fair location. We can't be the first city to face this. What have others done??
Dana June 28, 2011 at 02:50 PM
Coventry in general is getting overrun by teenage crowds every Friday and Saturday nights - not sure what can be done, but I will definitely be attending those Thursday night meet your police meetings at city hall!
tjc June 29, 2011 at 03:04 AM
The same situation occured last year for 2010. I think the fair should be a for pay event, $5 per person and free for kids under 12 and anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Wristbands to enter. So instead of having cops patrol they only have to gaurd each entry point. Then all trouble will leave because they don't want to pay for the fair. Funds could be used to pay for clean up and improvements to the area.
Laurie Klopper June 29, 2011 at 12:49 PM
I own a store on Coventry and did not have any problems during this years Fair. While I noticed that the demographics changed around 4:00 (from families to large groups of black youth), I did not witness any violence or bad behavior. When I left at 6:00, it was without incident and I was happy that the Fair was a success. I was dismayed to hear about the arrests that occurred after the event was over. Unfortunately, a curfew would not have prevented these events and admission costs don't seem feasible either. Something needs to be done to stop the large crowds who want to start fights on Coventry, but the diversity on Coventry is one of the reasons I chose to open my store on Coventry. (Blush Boutique, women's boutique)
maize arendsee June 30, 2011 at 12:27 AM
I'm a mother of a young child, and I'm currently making plans to move to the Heights. However, I am deeply dismayed to find that the city is becoming so hostile to teenagers! In a few years my child will be a teen, and the last thing I want is for her to face police action and legal persecution just for exercising her right to peaceable assembly (I.e. "loitering") and to be banned from cultural milieus such as art fairs or economic locations such as shopping malls. What is our world coming to when a young person whose parents deign them old enough to attend a cultural event on their own can be treated like a criminal just for their age? Shame on you Tower City for instituional ageism and shame on the arts festival if it follows suit.... or is the problem just that these youths were largely black? Is "teen problem" being used as a euphemism for racism? Not sure and not sure it matters. In many ways, discrimination based on age is just as much blind prejudice as discrimination based on race. I hope by the time my daughter is a teen these cities will have realized that age is not a barrier to the rights of citizens to congregate.
James Worthing June 30, 2011 at 01:57 AM
The issue is not the congregation but the fact drama always result from these types of congregation. This isn't racism. This is attempting to prevent what's happened to all communities before. Just look at the twitter tweets, they're acting idiotic and admitting to it via twitter.
Kay June 30, 2011 at 08:29 AM
Tower city is struggling because the youth brought in the finance. They block them out and stores are barley making it. All the same kids go to Beachwood mall and give them Tower city money..So sad! They and cleveland Heights do have a issue but this is not the answer. Beachwood does a awesome job with the kids mall security and police. The kids cause issues and they are dealt with. This is not a solution it's sweeapin a problem under the rug problem is still there. Imagine if we dealt with everything this way.. This isn't teaching teens anything nor is it punishing those who deserve it. Trouble will still happen even after 6pm bad kids find away.Trouble makers need to be dealt with. Teens need not be harrassed nor told to go home at 6pm how unrealistic nor should they be harrassing others. There are good kids doing the right thing who don't need a parent to hold hands with them. So now your punishing them and not allowing them to develop and excercise independance. What about school activites and youth drivers who wants to have a parent with them. Times have changed and we need something because the youth is out of control but this doesn't sound like it.
Jeff H June 30, 2011 at 11:34 AM
One quick question about your post: you cite the presence of "large groups of black youth" starting around 4 pm. Was it relevant to point out the race of these youths?
Jeff H June 30, 2011 at 11:49 AM
But Maize, don't we have to deal with the reality that young people, particularly those in their teens and 20s and regardless of race, often have a tendency to get into trouble, especially when they congregate? If you were managing Tower City Center or the Coventry fair, what might you do to address the disruptive criminality of large groups of young people?
susanna leslie June 30, 2011 at 01:07 PM
I live in the Coventry area, and it was unbelievable here after the fair. Many of the teens were running around, yelling, disruptive and disrespectful. It is not a matter of a right of the citizens to congregate, it is the lack of respect and the overwhelming numbers that created this chaos. If you move to Cleveland Heights, would you be willing to have all of these teens at your home? That would be a place for all of them to congretgate, whether you are black or white or purple or green.
Donna MarinchekMarn July 02, 2011 at 05:11 PM
And will they Another Fair..Next year?Of Course they will!Sorry,I reported Gangs on Coventry...But,Yet Again,No one reacts and Responds with a Sense of Urgency,Until someone Gets Raped or Worse(killed).And then....They still do Nothing!!
A July 02, 2011 at 11:44 PM
Racism? B.S! White youth do the same flash mob stuff and either do horrible dancing, singing or group nude photos or some other boring activity along those lines.Black teens/young adults do this flash mob stuff and start looting, stealing, jacking people up etc. This is not quantum physics!!!

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