Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Keene is a small city in a quiet corner of New Hampshire. It is quintessential New England: traditional architecture, small-town feel, beautiful foliage, and civic pride. Bordering Vermont and Massachusetts, it has a touch of the gray-haired Yankee hippy with localvore, local-this and local-that, mixing commerce and idealism. A college town — Keene State College abuts the downtown area — it has plenty of Volvos and Subarus.
For more than 20 years, Keene has hosted its annual Pumpkin Festival, a combination Halloween and Harvest Festival that regularly is the largest congregation of carved pumpkins in the world, briefly turning this quiet, bucolic town into a tourist destination for thousands of visitors. Lately, HGTV has gotten in on the act with reality shows from the event. Every state-wide and regional politician — both incumbents and challengers — was there, pressing the flesh. Scott Brown, in particular, was a huge hit this year.
In this age of terrorism, the security concerns for a soft target like this are taken seriously, but dealt with appropriately. You don’t see the drones in the air but they are there. The police are discrete yet present. It is a fun, happy place with lots of family-friendly activities, including a fun Halloween parade for the little ones (and not so little ones).
This year riots came.
“Rowdy Night Ushers in Keene Pumpkin Festival” (NH Union Leader)
“Mayhem erupts Saturday in neighborhoods near Keene State campus” (SentinelSource)
As you can imagine, the students of Keene State use the Pumpkin Festival as an excuse for a big party, and they invite their friends from out of town and out of state. Lately, neighboring schools — and there are many — send busloads of students to Keene for the festival. This year, UNH, Dartmouth, and Boston area schools also sent buses. Not just college students, but lots of non-collegiate twenty-somethings as well. These ingredients have long been here, but this year the mixture was volatile. Last year there was an inkling, with a college party getting out of hand. But nothing like this year.
Supposedly the troubles started with a five-way fight near campus. Groups of kids around the fighters started throwing beer bottles at each other. Then street signs were pulled out of the ground. Then they started flipping cars. By then the police had them cordoned away from the rest of the festival.
My family and I were working at the food booth my son’s scout troop has at the festival. If it weren’t for everyone’s twitter/news feeds going off on their smartphones, we would never have known about the mayhem, even though the bad events were 4-5 blocks away. The festival continued very nicely and the bad behavior was contained, even as the rumor mill worked overtime. The aftermath of news reports and social media are how the bulk of festival-goers learned about the Pumpkin riots. Nevertheless, the riots were bad and lasted late into the night, including fires being set in the street.
The police were excellent, and handled the situation as well as can be expected. Officials kept cool heads and did not overreact, but displayed firmness and resolve. They were in regular police uniforms, not SWAT gear (although there was a SWAT team in back-up as appropriate for an event as big as this).
As the situation escalated, back-up forces came from the rest of the state, as well as Massachusetts and Vermont. They worked to contain the rioters and minimize the harm. At one point they dispelled the bulk of the rioters with a traditional riot gear phalanx march and pepper spray. Then they steadily tightened the noose and dispersed the crowd via various means, while arresting the hard-core and providing medical attention to the injured. No shots fired, no batons cracked heads. Plenty of arrests. Lots of pictures for trials from the overhead drone cameras and social media. The law and insurance companies will not have trouble finding the perpetrators who got away.
It would not have been fun if you were caught in it, or if your car was one of those flipped. But that was the fault of the rioters, not the police.
Search on Twitter at #Pumkinfest, #PumpkinFest, #Pumpkinfest Police, #PumpkinSpiceRiots for pictures and comments. Twitter is full of comments comparing this to Ferguson. This was not Ferguson. It is ridiculous the degree to which everything is racial now (thanks to the Left for “heightening” racial awareness).
Perhaps the best explanation why they did it is from a nondescript, excited punk who said he was from Haverhill Mass. — “it’s fun to do things you’re not supposed to.”