Reed: Atlanta will not tolerate Freaknik-related trouble

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said on Wednesday he will be tough and even sue organizers of any Freaknik-related activities who violate city guidelines.

"We will walk the line between keeping order in our city and welcoming our visitors," Reed said at a news conference to discuss traffic and public-safety plans for other scheduled events that might bring 300,000 people to the city this weekend. "There will not be a takeover of Atlanta under my watch."

Also on Wednesday, state transportation officials decided it wouldn't add to the anticipated traffic congestion by postponing scheduled roadwork for a week, which meant some northbound traffic lanes on the Downtown Connector wouldn't close this weekend.

Two separate groups have plans to hold activities at private venues throughout metro Atlanta this weekend using variations of the name "Freaknik," the annual event that began in the early 1980s as a picnic for college students and morphed into a rowdy street party by the mid-1990s. Freaknik officially ended in 1999.

Atlanta officials said there are no permitted Freaknik-related events inside the city limits. Still, they have prepared for the possibility of large crowds. Among this weekend's authorized events are the Atlanta Dogwood Festival, the Sweetwater 420 Fest, a robotics competition, a film festival, a tango festival, an Atlanta Braves series and an Atlanta Hawks playoff game.

Reed estimated the city will spend between $125,000 to $300,000 on police and firefighter overtime for staffing all activities.

In an added preventive measure, city officials disclosed they sent a letter on March 12 to Freaknic Atlanta organizer, J.K. Jones, demanding that he drop plans to hold any outdoor-related events this weekend because he doesn't have a permit. Jones, who said he's not organizing any outdoor events in Atlanta, complained that city officials and police have discouraged people from allowing Jones to hold events at their venues outside the city.

Roswell officials told Jones on Wednesday they wouldn't permit him to have a car and bike show in the city because of the potential crowds. Jones still had events planned at other locations in Roswell, near Stone Mountain and an undisclosed site that will be revealed only to his Twitter followers.

"I will tell my people do not let Freaknik to be an excuse to break the law," he said.

The new Atlanta mayor attended Freaknik once when he was in college, and even though he said it was more structured then, Reed didn't return because of the way some men treated women in subsequent Freakniks, which he said was reprehensible.

College students, the target audience for Freaknik, had mixed opinions when asked about it.

Georgia State University engineering students Cameron Porter and Kendrick Mosley said they were excited about Freaknik and were going to attend some related events.

"I'm glad they're finally bringing it back, because it's a day we can have fun," said Porter, 20, a junior. "I think it's going to be straight because [attendees] will want it to come back."

Mosley and Porter, however, acknowledged there could be troublemakers who will cause fights and that street gangs might congregate at some events.

Sharaye Stroran, 18, a freshman at Georgia State, said she has no interest in attending anything associated with Freaknik.

"It sounds like a bunch of raunchiness," she said.

Spelman College junior Christina Whatley, 20, had heard stories about Freaknik from relatives who attended and planned to go out of curiosity.

"I think I will attend an event or two just to see what it's like," she said.

A MARTA official said additional rail cars will be on standby. Atlanta police have put traffic plans on their Web site, Residents with questions can call the city at 404-330-6023.