NAACP attacks ban on concerts at Navy stadium

Annapolis mayor's action aimed largely at blacks, group says

June 09, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

The Annapolis mayor's decision to ban large-scale events, such as last weekend's jazz festival, from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium drew fire yesterday from the local chapter of the NAACP.

Gerald Stansbury, president of the Anne Arundel County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the decision unfairly targets a form of entertainment popular in the black community.

He said of the 15,000 to 20,000 people who attended Capital Jazz Fest on June 3 and 4, about 95 percent were African-American.

"I don't think the mayor has a clue about the impact of his decision," Stansbury said.

Mayor Dean L. Johnson said his decision was based on the impact the event had on surrounding neighborhoods. After the festival, many residents complained about traffic congestion, noise and trash on the grounds.

"I wasn't aware it was a racial matter, at all," Johnson said. "The music style had nothing to do with it."

At the Annapolis council meeting Tuesday, Johnson said the festival was a "test case" to see if the stadium could handle an event the size of the Jazz Fest. He said the permit was granted with noise and time conditions.

"Obviously, those limits were either not observed or inadequate," Johnson told the council. "The test failed."

Johnson said he will no longer issue a permit for events like the Jazz Fest at the stadium and doubts whether a concert of that magnitude could be held anywhere in the city.

"We were trying to squeeze an awful lot of energy and activity into a small space," he said yesterday.

Jack Lengyel, president of the Naval Academy Athletic Association, which operates the stadium, told the council Tuesday that he agreed with the mayor's decision.

"There won't be anymore Jazz Fest there," he said.

Lengyel told the council that the association was trying the festival as a way to raise money for the nearly $1.5 million in repairs slated for the 43-year-old stadium. He said he thought that jazz would not be disruptive to the neighborhood.

But many residents in nearby Admiral Heights said music from the festival was amplified toward their houses, cars were parked bumper to bumper on residential streets and trash left on the grounds blew into their yards.

"Out of a 48-hour weekend, we were subjected to more than 24 hours of high-volume music, traffic congestion and parking problems," said Cary Rea, a member of the Admiral Heights Improvement Association.

Cynthia Carter, a Ward 6 alderman who attended the festival, said the situation was not as bad as people have described.

"It was a beautiful musical and it was the first time there's been anything of this caliber for African-Americans, other than the Kunta Kinte festival," she said.

Annapolis Police Chief Joseph S. Johnson said he was preparing a report on the festival.

"The festivalgoers were very orderly and well-behaved," Johnson said, adding that there were no major problems, other than traffic and parking.

The police had assigned 38 officers per shift to the location and additional personnel were called on to help control traffic, which became congested on the streets near the stadium.

Johnson attributed the congestion to the festival as well as traffic accidents on U.S. 50 and cars headed to the Eastern Shore.

Carle Conway, who lives on nearby Rosedale Street, said the festival didn't disrupt his street. He said he could barely hear the music.

"The [Navy football] games and the parties that go on for hours afterward are much louder," he said.

Cliff Hunte, owner of Capital Jazz Productions in Largo, which ran the festival, said his company followed the terms of its contract with the athletic association.

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