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Georgia Beach Town’s Crackdown on Black Spring Break Party Sparks Controversy

Source: Josh Galemore

Black students looking to party on Tybee Island’s shores this weekend are in for a shock when they’re greeted with barricades and police rather than a fun beach bash.

The annual spring break party known as Orange Crush has happened for over 30 years, but after last year’s massive crowds, the island aims to shut it down. With tensions high, accusations fly that the island’s nearly all-white local government is discriminating against the visiting Black students who want to party.

Tybee Island Braces for Annual Orange Crush Spring Break Bash

Tybee Island is gearing up for the annual Orange Crush spring break party this weekend, bringing in extra police and barricading some areas to avoid issues from last year.

Source: Connect Savannah

Officials insist the measures are simply to ensure public safety, though critics argue the island appears to be targeting Black visitors.

Looking Back at Last Year’s Chaotic Orange Crush Celebration

Last April, the annual Orange Crush beach party descended into chaos as over 100,000 attendees overwhelmed Tybee Island’s infrastructure and resources.

Source: WJCL/Tia Maggio

The small island was unprepared for crowds of this magnitude, leading to dangerous overcrowding, traffic jams, litter, property damage, and various criminal activities.

Overwhelmed Infrastructure

With only 3 miles of beach and a few narrow roads, the tiny island was overrun. Emergency vehicles struggled to respond to dozens of calls reporting injuries, drug overdoses, and other issues.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Locals complained of revelers urinating in yards, excess trash, and damage to property. The island’s two dozen police officers were no match for unruly crowds and brazen lawlessness.

Disregard for Laws and Safety

Some attendees took advantage of the chaos to openly sell and use drugs, carry weapons, fight, and commit other crimes.

Source: Tybee Police Department

Gunshots were reported, and at least one stabbing occurred. The mayor received reports of “women being groped” in crowded areas.

Tybee’s Plan to Disrupt Orange Crush

To avoid chaos and ensure public safety, Tybee Island officials have devised an extensive plan to disrupt the annual Orange Crush spring break party this weekend.

Source: RJ Smith

The city has placed metal barricades to block off parking meters and residential streets along the main road parallel to the beach. Two large parking lots near the popular pier will also be closed.

A Move To Ultimately End Orange Crush

Mayor Brian West said the crackdown is meant to end Orange Crush ultimately. He insists the measures are not racially motivated despite the event attracting primarily Black visitors.

Source: Connect Savannah

West believes previous city officials have avoided taking action against Orange Crush out of fear of being called racist.

Criticism of the Response

However, critics argue that local officials are overreacting and unfairly targeting Black visitors. They note that the island attracts huge crowds for the Fourth of July and other summer weekends when most visitors are white.

Source: Connect Savannah

Tybee MLK Human Rights Organization leader Julia Pearce said, “Our weekends are packed with people all season, but when Orange Crush comes, they shut down the parking, bring extra police and act like they have to take charge.”

Tybee’s History as a “Whites Only” Beach Until 1963

Tybee Island has a complicated history with race relations. For decades, the beach was segregated and only open to white visitors. Black residents and visitors were barred from using the beach until 1963.

Source: Visit Tybee

The beach was declared off-limits to Black people through ordinances that made it illegal for them to use the beach or own beachfront property.

Racist Ordinances Overturned in 1963

The ordinances weren’t overturned until 1963 when Tybee’s Beach was integrated. However, the island has remained predominantly white.

Source: Connect Savannah

Today, over 90% of Tybee’s residents are white, while Savannah, just 18 miles away, is over 50% Black. Many critics argue that the crackdown on Orange Crush is the latest example of racism on the island.

Tourism on Tybee Outside of Orange Crush Weekend

While Orange Crush weekend brings large crowds that strain the island’s resources, tourism remains an important part of Tybee Island’s economy year-round.

Source: Expedia

Outside of the spring bash, the beach town attracts visitors seeking a low-key getaway with picturesque beaches and an old-school beachy vibe.

Island Draws Beachgoing and Swimming Tourists

Tybee Island’s beaches are its biggest draw for tourists. The island has over 3 miles of public beach with soft white sand and gentle waves, ideal for sunbathing, swimming and beachcombing.

Source: Boatsetter

Families often flock to the beach with children during summer vacations and long weekends. The historic Tybee Island Pier and Pavilion is a popular spot for beachgoers to grab snacks, drinks or ice cream.

Watersports and Fishing Haven

In addition to swimming, Tybee Island offers opportunities for kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, and boat rentals.

Source: Tripadvisor

Fishing charters and tours take tourists out on the water to fish for trout, redfish, sharks and more. Dolphin tours are also popular for spotting the playful marine mammals in their natural habitat.

Balancing Public Safety and Inclusion on the Island

Balancing public safety concerns and inclusiveness is a challenge for the small island city, especially given its racial history.

Source: Tybee Island

While last year’s Orange Crush event led to dangerous overcrowding, gun violence and health emergencies, subjecting Black students and visitors to intense policing risks racial profiling and threatens to sour the tradition.

Public Safety or Racism

Tybee Island is trying to shut down Orange Crush, claiming it’s about public safety. But critics see it as an overreaction targeting Black visitors.

Source: Connect Savannah

The island’s few Black residents say the added police and roadblocks feel discriminatory. Only time will tell if the crackdown will actually stop Orange Crush for good or just deepen racial divides in this beach town.

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

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