Loud, late-night car meet-ups in Durham not going away, organizers say
Posted December 7, 2020 1:47 p.m. EST
Updated December 7, 2020 9:16 p.m. EST
Durham, N.C. — Late-night gatherings of car enthusiasts in Durham that sometimes include illegal street racing will end only if city leaders provide the group with a place to meet, organizers say.
Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said that's not happening.
Residents frustrated with the meet-ups, which feature revving engines and squealing tires as drivers "drift," or do donuts, across parking lots, took their complaints to Durham City Council last month.
Police said Monday that they are actively working on complaints they receive about the issue and are committed to identifying and charging those responsible with breaking any laws.
But the people involved in the gatherings said they are misunderstood.
"Honestly, it’s just an escape where I can have fun, I can meet up with some of my old friends, make new friends, find people who have common interests in what I do," said Nicholas Clark, an organizer for Durham Meetz, which stages the gatherings.
"Even though there is some reckless activities that’s done out there, we do have a positive message overall," said Clark, who goes by the nickname "Culture'd." "We would like to get people together if they have, like, problems in their personal life or just need an escape from reality. It’s something where they can either express through their cars or just hang out."
A Durham Meetz member, who wanted to be identified only by his "Shoman" nickname, admitted the gatherings rescued him from a dark period in which he thought about suicide.
"It saves a lot of people from self harm, mental issues, family issues. It’s one of the only outlets that people need. It’s changed so many lives, including mine," Shoman said.
Durham residents said the meet-ups aren't all good fun, telling officials that drivers race on city streets.
Clark and Shoman both said they don't condone racing, but they don't have the authority to stop the drivers who do it.
"It’s really just a bunch of idiots going spot to spot, and we highly discourage doing that kind of driving," Shoman said.
"We’re sorry that we – some of us – put y’all in danger," Clark said. "We’re actually trying to find some type of legal spot where we can do this stuff and don’t have to worry about being in the streets and putting other people in harm’s way."
He said he wants to meet with Durham leaders about setting aside someplace for the group to drift.
Schewel said he doesn't think that's possible.
"It’s hard to imagine a space in the city where that would be – where people would be drag racing. I don’t see how that would work," he said. "I understand there are people who want to do it, but it’s also very disruptive. It’s a problem."
Clark and Shoman said that the group has no plans to go away.
"As of right now, it’s probably not going to stop because we have no place to go," Shoman said.
"It’s nothing that we can just stop because it’s just a part of us. This culture is a part of us," Clark said. "If we could get a permanent parking lot, pit, whatever, I’m pretty sure you won’t see that much chaos in the streets."