City Commission discusses City Manager’s decision to end Peaceful Sundays events
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At their April 6 meeting, the Gainesville City Commission held a discussion about Peaceful Sundays, an item placed on the agenda by Mayor Harvey Ward, who said, “It continues to be a thing that is of concern to people who live in southeast Gainesville.”
Event has been going for 20 years without a permit
City Manager Cynthia Curry said the gathering is held most Sundays between February and August at T.B. McPherson Park and draws between 200 and 2,000 people; the event has been going on for more than 20 years. The Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department secured a no-cost permit from the event promoter for the first time in 2022. Since 2019, the City has hired a security company to ensure the park is safe and make sure the guests are following park rules; this was an unbudgeted item in the Park budget.
This year, the City secured a permit from the event promoter that ends in April, and the City has continued to fund unbudgeted costs for cleaning the park and for security services. Gainesville Police Department has also allocated staff to the event, and the total cost to the City comes to about $89,000 per year.
The City Manager’s office receives regular complaints and concerns from neighbors of the park regarding noise, trash, uncontrolled parking, and unregulated activity during the event. Curry said she asked staff to find an alternate venue, and in January 2023, City representatives met with the event promoter to notify him that the event would be held in the future at Fred Cone Park because it had outgrown T.B. McPherson Park. Curry said the event promoter “actually refused, stating that the history of the event is at McPherson, there’s a lack of shade at Fred Cone Park, and he had already advertised for the McPherson Park.” However, he agreed to end this year’s event on April 30.
Curry said the event promoter told her he intended to continue to host events at T.B. McPherson “despite the City directive to the contrary.” She also said that due to budgetary constraints, the City could no longer support moving the event to Fred Cone Park, either.
She added, “It’s not that I am not supportive of Peaceful Sundays; it just has to be an event that is controlled and complies with current City policies and procedures relative to permitting and relative to the event organizer supporting the costs of all the attendant things that come with an event like that… Based on the intrusion in that particular neighborhood… clearly it is not something that I think that community should continue to endure, based on the parking, the noise, the trash, and just the challenge that I see, not only the security officers but the police officers trying to control that event.”
“We’re out until 2:00, sometimes 3:00 in the morning dealing with the crowds that originate at this event” – GPD Chief Lonnie Scott
GPD Chief Lonnie Scott said, “The primary concern for me and my folks, the police department, is that it’s the aftermath it causes our neighbors… There’s quite a bit of activity that’s generated by the folks that attend the events.” He said there’s a safety issue with getting emergency vehicles through the traffic. He continued, “We’re out until 2:00, sometimes 3:00 in the morning dealing with the crowds that originate at this event, and on a Sunday night, when you think that things would be slowing down earlier.”
Scott said the event “may not be as bad” if the attendees were only from Gainesville, but “people said they come here because they can’t do in their cities what they can do here.”
“It’s not our event. It’s the community’s event, and everybody in the community goes through a Special Event Permit process, and this group right here does not.” – Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Director Roxana Gonzalez
Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Director Roxana Gonzalez said it’s a “beautiful event… it’s just outgrown the location. One of our biggest challenges is to get the individual who was hosting it, Johnny, who is an excellent guy, to get him to go through the process of the Special Events City processes to get the permits in place, to verify the food vendors. Currently my biggest concern for the City is the fact that the food vendors are not cleared by the City.” She said the City could be liable if there were any issues with the food vendors. She concluded, “It’s not our event. It’s the community’s event, and everybody in the community goes through a Special Event Permit process, and this group right here does not.”
Public comment: “The trash is phenomenal” and “There’s no trash”
During public comment, Joni Ellis said she lives near the park and “the trash is phenomenal… I’ve been told that by coming here to speak today, I’m putting my safety at risk because people who are involved with this event have friends in high places–the State Attorney’s Office, the police department, the Sheriff’s Department… It’s not a community event. The community that lives around that park, that the park was built for, is in tears… The event has definitely outgrown the park… I’m a neighbor, and I live with this. It’s not OK.”
Kendrick Hill said the event has always been peaceful and added, “I understand they’re making a narrative of a whole bunch of people coming from out of town. 90% is from Gainesville… Everybody has got a concern. But you got to think about this: Peaceful Sundays actually started from Clinton Portis, the guy that played football. Had Clinton Portis weekends for two years while he was playing for the Raiders, and it was double the amount of people, like 4,500 people. They had NFL stars, all of the champions, they all came.” He said everybody liked the event back then because people filled up the hotels “and the City was banking off that weekend. They made a lot of money.”
Hill said people help clean up the trash. “There’s no trash… Peaceful Sunday is peaceful.”
Dejeon Cain said there’s nothing for young people to do in Gainesville, “that’s why we got all of the gun shooting and violence. They don’t have anywhere to go. You may not agree with what happens at Peaceful Sundays, but when my company worked Peaceful Sunday, we didn’t have any incidents… Let’s find a way to work with [Johnny Brown], we got to have an outlet, guys. You think we got a gun problem now, you wait until this ends.”
“Let’s continue this because if you don’t, I think we’re going to regret it.” – Dejeon Cain
Cain said nobody complains about “the other sides of town. We pick and choose… When y’all have parties on the other side of town, I don’t hear how they’re coming before the commission… Let’s continue this because if you don’t, I think we’re going to regret it.”
Commissioner Ed Book said he hoped the City Manager would provide education on the remaining Sundays before the end of April to “tell people what is going to happen, and we’re not just in the enforcement role, we’re in the education role.”
Commissioner Bryan Eastman said he was sympathetic to the neighbors and “also sympathetic to the folks who want to have events for the young people in the community.” He said he was also sympathetic to the “entrepreneur who has spent the last 20 years building this up and trying to get the word out and building it.” He said he would like to see staff continue to work with the promoter to meet the requirements for permits and vendors but also be financially sustainable in a way that doesn’t impact the surrounding neighborhoods.
Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut wondered whether the City could provide tents for shade at Cone Park. She added, “People need a place to go. They need some outlet. This has gone on for 20 years. It should have been ticketed as a Special Event. The City, going forward, cannot afford to put out $90,000 for this.” She asked Hill if people pay to attend the event.
“Imagine if you’ve got 1,000 people with cars and rims and music [at Depot Park]… It’s nice where it’s at; you don’t want it everywhere in the city, I’m just tellin’ you.” – Kendrick Hill
Hill came back to the podium and said the event is free: “It’s a free park… My problem is, if y’all take it from there, we’ll do it at… Depot Park. They just gonna pull up at Depot Park.” He said other promoters might start events at other City parks, and “y’all gonna have problems… Imagine if you’ve got 1,000 people with cars and rims and music [at Depot Park]… It’s nice where it’s at; you don’t want it everywhere in the city, I’m just tellin’ you… You’re gonna have police at that park, that park, that park… runnin’ everywhere around the city, and they just gonna keep moving.”
Commissioner Casey Willits said the City has an opportunity to develop a “Fair Park” for events like the Medieval Faire. He also said he would “like it to go under our permitting system, to get all of those kind of things that are needed to make it easier and better.” He said he didn’t like the argument that the event is not “worthwhile” because it costs the City money; he pointed out that the City partners with other organizations for events, but he did think it should go through the permitting process and “hopefully the community can stand around Johnny to pick up the pieces so they can help” with the bureaucratic parts of running a permitted event.
Curry reiterated that the event is too large for T.B. McPherson and also, “from an equity point of view, just in terms of permitting… it wasn’t permitted. Should not have been allowed, but it was. So there is a feeling of entitlement because the City allowed it. But it is not permitted. You have concession areas in there selling food as if the City is sanctioning it, and it is not. And we have to address it.”
“I’m going to be honest… They don’t want to be in the space here because they do not want to feel as if they are raining on a parade that others enjoy. But there are folks who sit in their yards armed, I will tell you that for a fact.” – City Manager Cynthia Curry
Curry said that when the event is held at Citizens Field (usually on Easter Sundays), Brown follows all the school board rules in terms of getting permits, paying for insurance, and paying for police services or security services. “It should be no different on this side because we have to treat everyone who comes in for an event–and this is a Special Event.” She pointed out that it is not a festival that is co-sponsored by the City, although the City Commission could make that decision. She also added that many people who live near the park may not have come to the meeting “because they do feel intimidated. I’m going to be honest… They don’t want to be in the space here because they do not want to feel as if they are raining on a parade that others enjoy. But there are folks who sit in their yards armed, I will tell you that for a fact.”
She said she was not asking the City Commission for a recommendation but had already taken the action of ending the event at T.B. McPherson Park. “If I’m asked to do something different, then so be it.”
Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker said she would like to see a roundtable “where we can sit down with the promoters and people who are involved in the Peaceful Sundays event. Because I’m encouraged by the idea of black men saying we stand against violence.”
In response to a question from Commissioner Reina Saco, Curry said the City had been able to get a Park Reservation Permit completed for this spring’s events, but the event hasn’t been handled like other Special Events, where the event host fills out a permit, pays a permit fee, and pays for any added services like police. Curry said, “All of those have been waived due to how this event has been institutionalized and grandfathered in. It wasn’t like I wanted to go and make drastic changes quickly. I wanted to educate and continue explaining what the process is and gradually get to where we need to get to.”
“Everybody else has to do it, regardless of what park it is. Yes, the parks are free for everyday general use. This is not general use.” – Commissioner Reina Saco
Saco said it came down to a “safety and equity issue. Everybody else has to do it, regardless of what park it is. Yes, the parks are free for everyday general use. This is not general use… At this point, I appreciate the intent from staff to go gentle, and if gentle has not worked, then we will go straight to objective and treat everybody the same… We don’t have this arbitrarily; we have it for safety and liability reasons because we don’t want anyone hurt, because we don’t want a fire engine to get stuck.”
In response to a question from Chestnut, Curry said she was not recommending a Special Use Permit “because I don’t know that we have a facility to accommodate the event.” She said, “If the organizer is interested in coming to the table and having a discussion, staff is open to having that discussion.” Curry also told the commission that Johnny Brown had been invited to the meeting but said he would not be present. She also agreed to follow up with the roundtable that Duncan-Walker had requested.
Sign is now posted at the park
A sign has now been posted at T.B. McPherson that says, “Final Peaceful Sundays is April 30. After April 30, no event activities will be allowed, such as food vendors, amplified noise, and illegal parking. After April 30, all rules according to the City of Gainesville Code of Ordinances Chapter 18 will be in effect.”
Sunday Sunday Sunday cant wait to see what happen will the city out up tents will someone get food poison, will some one get shot again stay tuned
same bat time
same bat channel
No garbage left behind? BS! No trouble for the people who actually live in the neighborhood? BS!
According to Ms. Curry, “I’m going to be honest… They don’t want to be in the space here because they do not want to feel as if they are raining on a parade that others enjoy. But there are folks who sit in their yards armed, I will tell you that for a fact.”
This is another “Sweet 16 Birthday Party shooting” waiting to happen!
The GNV CC group of two who approve of this event. Is this an “Historical Black Neighborhood?” No wonder Chestnut and D-Walker are for it!
If this is for young people then protect them, move it to a venue that can handle it! I’m sure Clinton Portis wouldn’t mind.
“Dejeon Cain said there’s nothing for young people to do in Gainesville, “that’s why we got all of the gun shooting and violence. They don’t have anywhere to go”
“You think we got a gun problem now, you wait until this ends.”
What kind of BULLSH*T is that? Stop making excuses for your ignorant azz kids running around robbing stealing shooting and killing people based on your complaint that there’s nothing for your kids to do.
There’s all kinds of stuff to do, there’s city pools, the mall, parks, sports, skate station, bowling, dave and busters, movie theaters, skate park, santa fe zoo, fishing! Other than an amusement park I don’t see where this city has anything less than any other City around.
You left out getting a job learn how to work for a living 😂😂😂
For the sake of disclosure, Dejeon Cain was hired by the City to provide security for not so peaceful Sundays. So it’s no surprise he’s upset, his main source of income just got cut off.
AGREED! There’s nothing for kids to do in High Springs. They ain’t shooting! There’s nothing In Alachua. They ain’t shooting! Same in Waldo, Lacrosse, Micanopy… you get my point. Shootings happen because of BAD PARENTING. Teach kids respect, hard work, and problem resolution at an early age and it won’t matter..Gainesville, Chicago, St Augustine…those kids won’t shoot. The kids with bad upbringing..different story.
As in many areas of our city counsel responsibilities they fail to do their job. Neither being good stewards of the publics money or tending to business before it becomes a crisis
Add Peaceful Sundays to the list of things that Poe screwed up. It worked fine before the open container law was cancelled and people started showing up from all over Florida to join the party.
Ghetto terrorism is rampant in Gainesville, perhaps nowhere more so than on “Peaceful” Sundays. The entitlement mentality is on display when these idiots threaten to terrorize other parks as well if they’re not allowed to continue destroying TB McPherson every week at the cost of the taxpayers.
It’s a textbook example of what happens when youth are raised on CRT, too.
Another glaring example of just how this City Commission’s decisions are cultivating the Mayors Chaos’s regime. Congrats on recognizing you can’t afford this questionable expense. What other secret side deals have you been spending taxpayer money on? This wreaks of Hinson Rawls suggested secret agenda . For those who say there is no noise pollution or trash , you have destroyed any credibility. To threaten more chaos to be distributed elsewhere should result in immediately suspending Gainevilles, Wokesvilles open container ordinance King Poe mandated. A single decision that has led to rampant crime in the area. Since when is it the responsibility of taxpayers to pay tens of thousand dollars a year for Parties like this?
The city violates the constitutional Equal Protection articles, by *not* enforcing the permit, noise, and traffic codes on one important voter bloc — but not others. This has been allowed to go on for 20 years in District 1.
Meanwhile, the One Love Cafe outdoor music and dining venue has been harassed by city “noise complaints” — because it’s it the NW suburbs and taking business away from our beloved woke-ridden downtown.
That’s clearly unconstitutional Political Targeting.
Maybe One Love woke cafe is targeted because of their emphasis on drag shows. Glad I don’t have one of those near me.
This was an unbudgeted item.
Problem solved. Congratulations.
His argument is “Give us Peaceful Sundays or we’re gonna shoot up the town, ” ridiculous! End all this nonsense Gainesville!! And NONE of this is the GUN’S fault!!
Dejeon Cain is a loser. Making comments that the young folks have nothing to do in Gainesville!!!
See the 2019 Gainesville Sun: Even without a permit for the event, permits from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations were required to sell food including a requirement to have a city of Gainesville peddler’s permit.
So….now what’s it going to be? Homeless, gang banging, block party Sundays?
I think I’ll pass on the festivities downtown. Good luck to all the businesses that with benefit from the extra ‘diversity’.
There’s probably more to this than a city commission public performance cares to deal with.
Peaceful Sundays, it appears, moved from a small neighborhood gathering, to a gathering event, to a gathering event with activities, to a gathering event with activities and vendors, to a gathering event with activities and vendors with organizers, to a gathering event with activities with vendors organized by promoters using some unfunded city resources absent of permits, is that correct?
What possibly could be the problem?
Peaceful Sunday Videos at TB McPherson Park by CITIBOI TV – Drone footage provides unique look at traffic and parking – https://tinyurl.com/mrxsutr4
Well, yes, the footage is 2-years old but does give some visual context to the complaining neighbors.
“Dejeon Cain said there’s nothing for young people to do in Gainesville….”
‘Doing nothing’ seems to be a theme these days in Gainesville and the young people can be quick understudies.
The new Gainesville motto; Welcome To Gainesville; At Least They Aren’t Shooting People.
Lmao video shows proof how peaceful it really isn’t, look at the trash on the ground the loud music the hollering the hundreds of people standing by the street talking about free all their criminal friends. what a joke.
Chestnut said, “The City, going forward, cannot afford to put out $90,000 for this.” Yet she was willing to have every commissioner and the mayor double their salaries? That represents most of this commission’s mindset.
They’re supposed to serve the people; instead they choose to be self-serving.
Just the type of hypocrisy we’re used to.
Democrats, they’re so gullible and naive.
The reality of loosing the piggy bank GRU was on her mind 😂😂😂
And spend $5 million to renovated the Duckpond’s old even center (no, not the Thomas Center, not Reserve Center, their 3rd one) for the city voters and employee-residents there. Targeted political Payback 🤑🤑🤑
Those gatherings get real dark.
Cone Park would be an excellent place to move this to. After all it is a great place to be shot at during daylight, and have GPD refuse to arrest the shooter because “he didn’t mean it.” You can’t make stuff like this up. January 2020.
We don’t need no stinking permits! Next event will be a permit free, canceled carry fire- works display. Some will be arrested and none will be charged. It’s time to spread the love and have driveby events around all the city parks. This would be a good day to show the blue we care and give them all the day off. Let the neighbors work it out.
There’s definitely more to this. Let’s be honest, the mysterious promoter “Johnny Brown” isn’t doing this out of the goodness of his heart for the last 20 years.
If the event is free, he is taking a decent cut of all the concessions and whatever else might be sold at an event like this (use your imagination).
If we could follow the money trail, I expect that city commissioners received some form of compensation for allowing this money-making event to go on for 20 years without a permit, racking up huge bills for trash cleanup and police presence.
How about ending peaceful Friday and Saturdays too, and let people enjoy their neighborhoods again. People it is time to take the city back from thugs.
It’s not just a Southeast problem. When McPherson closes, the crowd moves to the intersection of University and NE 10th, between McDonald’s and Aloha Liquor, and a drinking party fills the streets, illegally parked cars making it impossible to get in and out of Old Northeast neighborhoods, adjacent to the Northeast and Southeast historic districts, and our windows vibrate from the car stereos. Since the commission allowed open containers of alcohol anywhere, there’ve been shooting deaths on three different occasions within a year on that block of University. It needs to stop.