Tybee announces partnership with churches for Orange Crush - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Tybee announces partnership with churches for Orange Crush

TYBEE ISLAND, GA (WTOC) -

Police are hoping faith and love can turn the notoriously wild Orange Crush beach party family friendly.

Tybee Island Police Chief Bob Bryson reached out to local churches in an effort to squash drug use, nudity and violence at Orange Crush.

A dozen churches have signed up to minister during the party.

"We can make a difference in the lives of these young people," said Pastor Joyce Hall, of Living Hope Community Fellowship in a Wednesday news conference on Tybee's pier. "And it may take some time, but over a period of time it would change, and it could be a huge family event where Tybee, Savannah and the county benefit."

Churches will be out both weekends of Orange Crush with a smaller presence April 12 and organized events – including music, spoken word and dance – on the pavilion April 19, Easter weekend.

"When they see that you can have a natural high having fun with what you have inside of you, they'll change," said Marquis Mason, a 20-year-old who survived a 2012 shooting at the Coastal Empire State Fair and now is lobbying for youth to have a safe place to have fun.

Promoted through social media, Orange Crush typically attracts thousands to Tybee. It began as a Savannah State University-sanctioned event but has since morphed.

Bryson said now, most attendees aren't enrolled in a college or university.

Mason says he and the churches he's working with don't want to shut down Orange Crush. They want to transform it, one person at a time.

"I see myself as a young person pushing other young people."

Bryson said he got the idea from Atlanta police.

"The Freaknik event in Atlanta was really shut down by the religious leaders," Bryson said. "It was other command staff in the Atlanta PD that recommended that I reach out to the religions leaders."

According to news reports in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, a police crackdown, not religious involvement, led to Atlanta's Freaknik party ending in 1999.

Tybee is planning the same police response this year they had last year, including bringing in officers from other jurisdictions, having undercover officers roam the crowd, setting up a command post and having a helicopter patrol the beach.

Copyright 2014 WTOC. All rights reserved.

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