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Respond firmly to beatdown at Village Fair

For 59 years residents of the Birmingham and Bloomfield area, and their children, as well as those from surrounding communities, have looked forward to the arrival each spring of the Birmingham Village Fair which promises four days of fun activities, as well as memories. Unfortunately, the most recent event held Thursday, May 30, through Sunday, June 2, will go down in memory as the year that violent behavior of teen attendees at the Village Fair have marred the event which officials must address now with a firm hand and increased proactive planning for next year.

The Birmingham Village Fair is hosted by the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce (BBCC) each year in the Shain Park area of the city. The event is the major fundraiser for the business group which devotes considerable time and energy to provide the community with a fun and safe event that the entire family can enjoy. BBCC President Joe Bauman tells us that local non-profit groups each year get about $20,000 from the chamber’s fair proceeds. The BBCC spends about $20,000 each year for police and fire department presence at the event, with somewhere between eight-14 officers present at any time.

This year there were two reported physical confrontations at the Village Fair, starting with what appears, according the police reports, as a fight between two teens near one of the rides. Police records say that one male teen accosted another and blows were exchanged but, once police got involved, the two involved teens resolved their issues and the case was considered “closed’ by local police.

The most disturbing event was a beatdown that took place on Saturday evening at about 10 p.m. on Henrietta Street near W. Maple, involving male students from Brother Rice and Seaholm. Several males attacked a Seaholm student, who police described as someone trying to diffuse tension between two groups. The attackers continued to beat and kick him once he fell to the ground.

All of this violent encounter was captured on multiple videos that circulated on social media which helped police identify three main suspects, at least one of which tried to deny even being present at the beatdown until he and his attorney were told of the video evidence.

At press time, we were not sure how police were going to handle charges for the beatdown although police reports obtained by Downtown through a Freedom of Information Act request suggested that aggravated assault charges would be sought against the three attackers.

So here’s our thoughts, both as local residents and parents whose kids enjoyed past versions of the Village Fair, as well as a downtown Birmingham business.

We are not buying some of the excuses we have been offered in defense of the suspects involved in the Saturday beatdown. Yes, teenagers do dumb things, even those who some claim are model students with no past criminal record. But as our readers know, we call BS when we see it. The beatdown was a serious criminal act that requires a firm and equally serious response by law enforcement.

Aggravated assault is a crime that warrants formal charges which may well send an important message to those teens caught up in the culture of physical violence as a way to settle disputes.

There is not much difference between the Village Fair beatdown and an incident at a local gas station the same weekend where a physical attack took place, also involving teen suspects.

Further, a beatdown on the public streets can make all of us feel unsafe in the downtown area where teens often congregate now that summer is approaching. This is walkable community where we have a right to feel safe, without the worry that we might find ourselves somehow caught inadvertently in some dispute between teen groups. Residents and local businesses deserve this much.

Lastly, local or outside visitors need to know that the Village Fair will continue but for the next year we recommend an increased public safety presence to discourage what has happened in Orchard Lake where the St. Mary’s annual Polish Country Fair has been cancelled because of teen violence and threats on social media. Or in Berkley where for two consecutive years teen gangs have descended on the Berkley Days to settle their disputes.

Send a strong message that crimes of this nature will not be treated lightly in our downtown area – or anywhere else for that matter.


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