Chapel Hill mayor says police presence, messaging kept Saturday crowd smaller on Franklin Street

North Carolina

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – UNC fans once again ran into Franklin Street on Saturday night in celebration of the Tar Heel’s win against the Duke Blue Devils.

But this time, the crowds were smaller and authorities could be seen standing on the corners of the intersection of North Columbia and East Franklin Streets.

On Saturday night, town officials said a couple hundred people congregated on Franklin Street, some rushing into the street.

“They were dispersed within minutes,” said Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger.

Hemminger said there were three waves of people who attempted to rush Franklin Street, but with both Chapel Hill and UNC Police standing on every corner, she said authorities were able to verbally disperse each crowd within minutes.

“People started going into the street, they saw that we weren’t encouraging that, and then they stepped back to the sidewalks,” Hemminger said.

Hemminger said Saturday night’s crowd wasn’t as large as last month’s crowd and a majority of the people were wearing masks.

But Saturday night’s crowd is still larger than the 50 people who are allowed to gather outside under the state’s current gathering restrictions.

Hemminger said police did everything they could to keep the UNC fans from rushing Franklin Street.

“Police actually said that they didn’t deploy everything they had ready to deploy,” Hemminger said. “So they were feeling very good about the evening and how well students respected the verbal commands.”

Businesses nearby like Blue’s on Franklin Barbeque said the crowds in February were much larger and the students were better behaved.

“I think the main difference is police were ready for it,” said Grady Pritchard, manager for Blue’s on Franklin.

Blue’s on Franklin owner Andrew Young said they were glad to see the crowd was kept under control.

“I think the first game, the students were experiencing a release and they overreacted,” Young said. “I think this past time they were well behaved and sensitive to what they needed to do to keep people healthy.”

UNC officials said in a statement they were disappointed that some students did not heed the warnings not to rush Franklin Street. They said that students will be disciplined.

Hemminger said the University is still investigating students who rushed Franklin Street last month, and University officials said they will not release any conduct updates until the next Conduct Summary Report is released in May.

But university leaders have said that students can be kicked off campus for violating gathering restrictions.

As for if there is a concern that there will be a spike in COVID-19 cases, Hemminger said a majority of students were wearing masks. She added that UNC-CH has a mandatory testing policy. Test results will show whether or not there’s a spike in cases.

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