The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Trick-or-teargas!

It was another happy Halloween in America's favorite communist enclave, Madison, Wisconsin. The reports are in, students are evil. We are not citizens that police officers are there to protect, we are villains. Society need protection from us. At least that's the buzz you get from Madison's Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. Cieslewicz is naming a task force to find out how other college towns have shut down fun parties.

Said the Mayor: "I do not want the event, the event has gotten out of hand."

The Mayor is reacting to this weekend's Halloween festivities. 75,000 costumed college students gathered on State Street. The night ended with students being sprayed with pepper spray by police officers in riot gear. The cops broke up the party when a small fire started and several partygoers were "rioting." I suppose that's one way to spin it.

From what I could tell, however, the only people rioting were the cops. Now normally I will side with cops but what happened Saturday night was disgusting. From what I saw and from what I've been told by everyone that was close to the action is that the mood on State Street was by no means hostile. People were in good spirits and were not combative in the least. There was a fire but it was tiny and only paper on concrete. It certainly needed to be put out but what happened was pure overkill.

My neighbor, a small Junior girl who was stone sober and in street cloths, saw a line of cops in riot gear form near her and asked a cop where she should go to stay out of the way. She was repeatedly sprayed with pepper spray until a person she didn't know pulled her into a doorway of an apartment building. The same thing happened to Texas Scott (permalink not working, see October 31 post.)

A bunch of kids burn a paper bag and maybe crack a window. The cops, who were being paid overtime, and riding horses (and presumably having been trained to ride horses at the city's expense, not to mention the stable fees and food) respond by hurting people with excessive use of pepper spray opening up the very reasonable possibility of lawsuits. The next morning you have a bunch of innocent people with tears in their eyes and bitter at the community. Oh, and a street full of horse shit. Who really did more damage here?

This is all very reminiscent of another (in)famous Madison incident from back in 1993. Fearing a big homefield victory over Michigan, police and stadium security erected a wall to keep fans from rushing the field. It worked. Nobody tore the goal posts down or damaged the turf, but in a Dr. Strangelovesque moment, they didn't bother to tell everyone about the wall. 73 people were injured as a result, 6 of them critically. They were trampled and crushed against the wall by the onrushing crowd.

Same old Madison. Building mountains out of a mole-hills. Solving minor problems by hurting people.

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