Good Cop Bad Cop…

It’s truly been eye opening the past few days in the aftermath of the KSC rioting.  Not the pumpkinfest rioting as that didn’t happen but because the students participating have hijacked #pumpkinfest people nationwide have connected the two.  Including the media.  Good Morning America is one example of the outlets continually saying that Keene State College had the pumpkinfest.  They didn’t.  I did tweet @GMA saying they need to get their facts straight but no response.

I also tweeted @drgoddess randomly.  I was just trying to clarify that they were two separate events and how I found it upsetting that #pumpkinfest was turning negative.  It led to a very interesting exchange.  Which is extremely difficult to do on Twitter when you are limited to 140 characters and when you add in tag names it gets limited even more.

I was coming from the point of view that the cops did a fabulous job stopping the riot from spilling into the festival.  I didn’t realise until the middle of the exchange that people are comparing this with Ferguson and the police response there.  It was basically if white kids riot they get tear gassed, if black kids riot they get killed.  This rocked me back.

As a disclaimer, I don’t have much faith in police as a general rule.  My experiences with them have not been positive.  Ranging from them royally screwing up my Grammy’s murder investigation, to not caring that my car along with several others got broken in, to here in Keene when one cop stood with me in my front garden with my kids looking on and basically saying it was on me to come up with solutions against those breaking the law, not him.  I’ve seen two incidences where cops stepped up.  The first was again in our front garden in the middle of the night when a drunk guy was beating his girlfriend.  They came quickly and dealt with it.  The second time was this past weekend.

This is a video taken by, I think, a student.  There are a few examples of why this is different from Ferguson.

First, in this country there is a gross disparity between how blacks are treated and how whites are treated.  This is a valid argument that needs to desperately be resolved.  Stealing cigarettes and causing trouble by walking down the street should never end in a death sentence.  And if a young man is put into the back of a cruiser and for some reason does go crazy, instead of shooting him, leave the cruiser.  And the Ferguson police lost further credibility by trying to arrest journalists for reporting on the story.  Sadly this scenario happens too often in our big cities.

However, I honestly don’t see that happening here.  Even though we are a very small city we are quite diverse.  Not only do we have whites and African Americans we also have Indian, Asian, African, and European.  We have poor and rich folk going about our business without too many incidences.  The vast majority of us look at character and how you treat others rather than what you are wearing or what you look at.

In the video the cameraman seemed to start off by trying to show that the police were being excessive as the police were lined up in riot gear.  He asked one student about it and the guy said no there were people throwing things which is why the police were there.

Then it shows an African American man approach the police.  He did put his hands up briefly which is smart for anyone approaching riot police.  He went up to the police, spoke then shook hands with one of the cops.  He turned round and said that the cops need people to leave the street.

There are a few minutes when the cops went and shot off some tear gas and pepper balls.  There was a white guy taken down, then a bunch of drunk kids bemoaning the abuse.  Honestly these kids wouldn’t know reality if it hit them.  Then you see some of the cops taking the time to talk to those who asked them questions about why they are doing what they are doing and what they are using.

This is hardly an over the top abuse of power.  In fact, they did an awesome job keeping the injuries to a minimum and preventing a bigger disaster that would have happened if the riots spilled into Main St.

This has provided many teachable moments to our children as well.  I was talking about my twitter exchange at dinner with the kids.  My 10 year old son was confused.  He couldn’t understand why blacks would be treated so differently than whites.  In our household we don’t tolerate racism or bigotry against anyone who is different than we are.  And at school he has friends of all colours and a few different countries.  So we had an interesting conversation that has continued since with him trying to wrap his head around the fact we aren’t all treated the same.  A lot of adults wonder the same thing.

Keene PumpkinFest vs Keene State Rioting

It was a tough weekend in our town and many of us are very upset and hopped up as they say.  We host the annual Pumpkinfest on Main St.  Many people put in long hours to make this work and there have been several world records for the number of lit pumpkins including last year with a count of 30581.  It’s a point of pride.  Two years ago we had HGTV in town and the world got to see what a fabulous community event it is.

Pumpkinfest 2 2014

Every year the school kids carve pumpkins at school as well as home, local businesses donate pumpkins as well as carve their own, and families wheel their pumpkins downtown and find good spots for them.  Friday there were good spirits as we set up our creations.  I found a good spot for ours.

Pumpkinfest 3 2014

They set up the student pumpkins in Central Square.  Of all the places that you don’t mess with, that is the spot.  Problem is there has been a growing problem with the college kids in town.  Please understand when I talk about the college students I do not mean all of them, in fact, some were hunkered down in their rooms too scared to leave.  But there is a growing faction of those that think it’s fun to cause trouble.  It started Friday night with drunks smashing pumpkins.

We like to take the dogs down the morning of when the streets are blocked off and it’s quiet.  We noticed a few pumpkins here and there smashed.  Even the top of my husband’s pumpkin was missing.  One woman was very upset because she saw that her 5 year old grandson’s pumpkin was destroyed in Central Square.  It didn’t bode well.

Pumpkinfest 1 2014

The best that I can see the perfect storm happened this way.  First, the college is spineless in holding the students accountable for their actions.  I’m not surprised at how bad it got.  They set up a town-gown committee after incidences last year and all that is happened is the decision to take another year to work on this before deciding what to do.

Second, there is a company in Boston that searches out colleges to bring people in to rave.  It’s called FinnaRage that sets up concerts and parties at colleges.  There are videos showing things getting out of control at previous events but the CEO insists that is not what they are about.  For me the proof is in the pudding.

Third, our town councillors knew they were coming but didn’t prevent it.  They were pretty toothless to be honest.

By 3pm the police had to be in riot gear and had the tear gas out as the students and their out of town guests were drunk and throwing cans and bottles at people.  By the end of the night there was a helicopter, swat teams, and responders from 3 states up against the mob raging, smashing pumpkins, destroying cars including flipping one over.

Pumpkinfest 4 2014

Here are a few things I want to clear up because social media, the national news, and yes the international news have the facts wrong.

First of all Keene State College does not host the PumpkinFest.  The town of Keene does and many hours of hard work are put into making it safe. And it was safe, there wasn’t any rioting during PumpkinFest.  In fact I was downtown at 3pm and none of us knew what was happening a few blocks away.  The police and fire departments kept them away from the families and visitors.  The kids got to check out the pumpkins in their costumes and have their fill of cotten candy and fried dough.

Second, Keene State has a lot to answer for.  Their first response was that it was out of towners.  Yes there were a lot of out of towners but they were invited by the students.  The college is trying to say it wasn’t on campus.  The streets that this happened on included the campus.  It’s time this stops, it gets worse each year.  Not only is it unfair to the residents of our town but unfair to the students that are actually there to learn.

Third, no it is not cool to flip cars and rage.  However, it is cool the idiots keep posting with their names fessing up to what they did.  Will make it easy to catch them and hopefully get them charged? I hope so. I mean really, how did these people get into college?

Pumpkinfest 5 2014

It upsets me that these hooligans highjacked the #pumpkinfest to use on the social media as it sullies all the good that happens.

While we didn’t get a new world record this year I would call the festival a success.  There were fabulous and creative pumpkins, adorable costumes on the kids and some scary ones on adults, and loads of volunteers who love our community.  That’s what I want #pumpkinfest to be full of.