Joe Hardee talks to supporters in favor of overturning the 17-year-old cruising ban in downtown Whiteville before they travelled from downtown in a motorcade to City Hall Tuesday evening.
There was cruising – and blue lights – in downtown Whiteville after a group left a Whiteville City Council meeting Tuesday night to protest the cruising ban.
Comments went on for about 45 minutes, but one cruiser, Joe Hardee, stormed out, taking others with him, when he wasn’t allowed to ask a question.
As a protest, a number followed him downtown and proceeded to drive back and forth on Madison in defiance of the ban. Whiteville police stopped several.
At one point, an estimated 100 cars were downtown cruising, with groups of supporters on the sidewalk cheering them on.
Earlier at the 6:30 p.m., meeting, a large crowd of cruising advocates asked city council to overturn the 17-year-old ban.
Most speakers noted that they cruised when they were younger and that they would like to provide something for their children that would keep them closer to home.
Many noted that downtown Whiteville has suffered, and that cruising would be a way to bring life back to the business district.
One speaker who supports the ban, Jonathan Medford, said that noise, litter and other problems would likely recur, disturbing the peace and quiet of town.
One Crusoe Island resident who favors overturning the ban said that he wouldn’t be opposed to a compromise with limited weekends and a curfew if that’s what it takes to bring cruising back. He likened cruising to Broadway at the Beach, except that traffic would be in the form of cars, not pedestrians.
Another supporter responded that many cruisers can’t afford expensive activities, and that cruising offers a cheaper alternative.
Others said that cruising could be controlled if police wrote enough tickets.
After leaving the meeting, Hardee held a rally in the parking lot in front of the temporary City Hall, then he and others drove toward Madison Street.
Johnny Edge, who spoke on behalf of the cruisers, apologized for the outburst and said that the two sides need to respect each other. Edge earlier said that cruising would be good for business and bring more traffic downtown.
Councilwoman Sara Thompson, a downtown business owner who has renovated several buildings, spoke and said that downtown is holding its own and that business owners need cruisers’ support. There are 23 apartments in downtown Whiteville now, most of which were not there before cruising, she noted. Thompson said that cruising had gotten out of control by 2000 and would be disruptive if the ban were overturned.
Mayor Terry Mann, an owner of J.S. Mann’s, said that when the city banned cruising, litter and broken glass were major problems in parking lots, and that he often had to drive to his store late at night to silence burglar alarms set off by loud music.
Mann said that cruising has changed since its heyday in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and that he couldn’t support a return to the problems that were evident to him and city council in 2000.
See the complete story in Thursday’s News Reporter, and videos at nrcolumbus.com and The News Reporter’s Facebook page.