From the AJC.com:
When Caitlin McLain first heard press reports about chaos during Screen on the Green at Piedmont Park, she assumed it was from the May 27 showing of “National Treasure.”
“We heard what sounded like gunshots going off,” said McLain, 22, of Marietta, who attended the debut of the summer film series with several friends. The noise turned out to be firecrackers. “We didn’t know what to do. We saw all these people running and we didn’t see any cops so we started running.”
McLain said she had noticed several groups of teens hanging around when she arrived at the park. One appeared to have a Taser.
“Some of my friends left early,” she said. “They didn’t want to take any chances.”
Lisa Wells, who attended “National Treasure” with a friend from London, said a rowdy group of teens hijacked the event.
“[They] were smoking pot openly,” she said. “When another attendee reported this to police, the female officer radioed for a male officer who took his sweet time to show up.”
After learning they had been reported, the teens became hostile, Wells said.
“One stood up in front of the group who reported her to police and blocked their view from the screen intentionally for about 10 minutes,” she said.
When the second officer arrived, Wells said he chatted briefly with one of the teens, then left.
“The crowd around the teenagers was disgusted,” she said. “Many began to leave. Then the [firecrackers] went off and everyone in the area left quickly.”
Matt Burkhalter, of south Atlanta, compared the atmosphere during the “National Treasure” screening to a bar brawl.
“We left early,” said Burkhalter, 32. “We felt unsafe and uncomfortable.”
The next day he wrote the Piedmont Park Conservancy about his experience and received a response that made it clear he wasn’t the only one to complain.
“The common thread with the e-mails we received centered on ‘safety,’ ” replied Aimedra Kelley, director of marketing and outreach for the conservancy. “To address this we plan to ramp up security presence in the park. Although we had more security in the park than there has been in past years their presence may not have been felt by attendees.”
Kelley said the new plan was to go into effect last Thursday — in time for “The Transformers” screening.
“Beginning tomorrow and moving forward we will have Atlanta police officers patrolling the perimeter sidewalks, walking the aisles down in the Meadow, and one person stationed at the First Aid tent who can communicate with the officers in the park,” Kelley wrote.
The changes, if implemented, didn’t appear to help.
“My daughter was at Screen on the Green and had her purse snatched,” Chris Paddrik told the AJC. Paddrik’s daughter filed one of at least three incidents reported to authorities, Atlanta Police spokesman Curtis Davenport said, clarifying earlier reports that only one report had been filed.
“She attempted to report it to three separate police officers — the first two told her that they wouldn’t take her report,” Paddrik said. “One officer told her that they had a report of an unconscious female who was possibly raped that he was looking for. While talking to the next officer, two young ladies arrived bleeding and crying hysterically that they had been assaulted.”
Davenport said there were no reports of sexual assault at the most recent Screen on the Green.
This week’s screening of “Dreamgirls” has been rescheduled for June 17 as police and park officials sort out the security issues.