A surprising event in Suffolk

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 8, 2004

After reading about the shots that were fired at the Grand Illumination Parade in Norfolk about three weeks ago, I never thought that anything would ever go wrong with one in our city. Boy, was I wrong, because halfway through the Suffolk parade, all chaos broke loose.

Everything was perfect, including the weather, which was not too hot or too cold for spectators as well as parade participants. As a matter of fact this Suffolk parade was one of the best that I have seen in the past few years.

I was standing directly in front of the driveway of the SunTrust Bank and about 30 minutes after the parade started, everything came to a sudden halt after a loud roar and a gigantic crowd began rushing towards the corner of Market and North Main St. Someone then came running our way and informed us that a fight had broken out between some guys. About five minutes later two police officers began marching South down N. Main Street holding the arms of a young black man with his shirt hanging off his shoulders.

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In about seven minutes the parade resumed and everything was almost back to normal. I learned later that a total of three men were arrested for disorderly conduct.

I also began to realize once more how unsafe the world of today is and that I couldn’t remember all of the dangerous crimes that are taking place now – such as purse snatching, mailbox theft and identity theft – taking place in the olden days.

Public fighting and shooting into crowds and single family dwellings are occurring more frequently, which means that you are not even safe in your home and now standing on the street to watch a parade.

Ironically enough, a few minutes before that disturbance broke out, one of my sisters, Shirley Lee, was just saying that we hoped no shots would be fired like they were at the one in Norfolk. Soon after Shirley and I joined my other sister, Earlene, and other friends who attended the former Booker T. Washington High School discussing our days in school when the former Booker T. Washington High School Band used to dominate Downtown Suffolk (which in the old days was referred to as the Square) and how everyone looked forward to seeing our drum major at that time, the late Clarence Myrick strut his stuff.

Even though that was during the days of segregation it seemed that the crowd bonded when it became fixated on the band’s performance. His body was so lithe and agile that I still can remember a Caucasian woman asking me if he was a professional dancer. We also had Christmas parades going every year and I can never remember any kind of confusion taking place as it did last Saturday.

Days where you can feel completely relaxed during a parade will now probably never return but I hope that the incident that took place on Saturday doesn’t put a damper on future parades. Those who scurried toward the confusion to see what was going on should realize that they were putting themselves in harm’s way.

Officer Fred Panton, with the Suffolk Police Department, said that in all confrontations such as that one people need to stand back and let the officers do what they need to do to bring order because Saturday’s incident was a sign that more violence could have occurred.

You who can’t control your tempers during a conflict or misunderstanding need to avoid these situations because a few heated moments that may lead to police intervention are not worth jail time.

In the meantime the good things about this parade outweighed the bad things because I think that the event was one of the best Christmas parades that Suffolk has put on in a long time.

I was particularly fascinated with the floats and the one that caught my eye was the one with the title, &uot;It’s The Reel Thing.&uot;

The reason that I like standing beside the reviewing stand is because that is where participants show the crowd what they are made of. The crowd really got a thrill from one stepper group that did some fancy dance steps and included a little girl about two years of age who kept up with the big folks. I am still trying to find out the name of the group.

The third group that I became fascinated with was the entry from Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. This 120 piece church band was named after its pastor the C.V. Russell Marching Ambassadors.

Even though these entries caught my eye I want to give a shout out to all entries for a job well done and say to Suffolk Parks and Recreation who was in charge of registering the entries, this parade was really a Surprising Suffolk event.

Evelyn Wall is a retired News-Herald reporter and regular columnist.