The Bessie Smith Strut should have been moved last year, and moving the blues and barbecue street party was “seriously considered” in 2004, the year after 20-year-old Tory Hardy was shot and killed following the event, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said today.
“The principal driving force” in relocating the Strut is safety, the mayor said.
“We should have closed it last year,” Littlefield said.
The Strut, held along M.L. King Boulevard, is no longer a safe situation, the mayor said.
The mayor, Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd, Capt. David Roddy and Friends of the Festival Executive Director Chip Baker met with Chattanooga Times Free Press reporters and editors about the decision to move the Strut.
Recent violence, including Christmas Eve shootings outside a downtown club last year and the March 18 shooting of a 13-year-old girl by a 17-year-old near Bennett Ave. spurred the mayor to act. Littlefield said he consulted with the city attorney and Dodd before making the decision.
Littlefield said members of the police department convinced him that safety issues and the difficulty in creating a safe atmosphere along M.L. King Boulevard forced him to cancel the strut and to ask Riverbend officials to move it to Riverfront Parkway.
Read more in tomorrow’s Times Free Press.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...