Edgewood businesses and residents want to stop weekend street parties

Merchants report 10 shootings in six years

Business owners and residents on Edgewood Avenue near downtown say Atlanta police have failed to control impromptu street parties, some of which have ended in shootings, so the owners plan to close the streets themselves.

Four people were shot in the latest incident Saturday near the Exxon station at Edgewood and Jackson Street, according to nearby business owners.

The street parties have been a problem since 2014, taking place nearly every summer weekend, Brandon Ley, co-owner of Joystick Gamebar, said during a Monday meeting of merchants and residents. Cars and motorcycles do wheelies and donuts in the street, blocking traffic and making it dangerous for pedestrians. Requests for police help have gone unheeded, he said.

“Absolutely nothing has changed,” said Johnny Martinez, Joystick’s other owner.

Tarryn Rutherford, co-owner of Harold's Chicken & Ice Bar on Edgewood, acknowledged the Atlanta Police Department was focused last weekend on the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy's parking lot south of downtown. But police typically have not worked with merchants on preventing the street parties, she said.

“If we keep looking for police officers’ support, nothing is going to get done,” Rutherford said.

The police department did not respond to a request for comment and for details on the Saturday shooting.

Meeting organizers played a video showing the street packed with cars and people Saturday and loud music blaring. They later showed an Instagram video in which gunfire is heard in the background.

There have been at least 10 shooting incidents over the past six years during the street parties, said LeJuano Varnell, executive director of the community development group Sweet Auburn Works.

Varnell suggested that local merchants meet with David Villaroel, the new commander of Zone 6, which includes the impacted stretch of Edgewood. However, police officials have told Varnell they lack the personnel to control the parties.

“They said the onus is on us,” Varnell said.

Merchants and residents agreed Monday to close the street this weekend, if police decline to help. They may hire a private security force later, depending on whether their efforts succeed.