Throughout the weekend of Oct. 18, chaos, destruction and multiple transportations to a nearby hospital took place in the small community of Keene, New Hampshire. The mayhem took place during their Pumpkin Festival, an annual event in which the town attempts to set a record for the most carved and lit jack-o’-lanterns. Violent parties, fueled by alcohol, led to the injury and arrest of dozens of partiers. As a result of the damage and the police response, the events of the weekend gained nationwide recognition on social and mainstream media.

Many, including myself, were initially appalled by the strong actions taken by police, who responded in riot gear using tear gas, pepper spray, canine units and rubber bullets to control and disperse the crowd. Despite my initial shock about the brutality of the police response, it now appears that force was necessary to disperse members of the community who were fighting back and refusing to return home. Reports of full liquor bottles and billiard balls being hurled at police appear to justify a forceful response. The refusal of many in the crowd to disperse and go home is troubling. While I do not think that resources the police used should have implemented to facilitate the dispersion, I admit that I do not have the answer as to which form of force would have been effective.

In an effort to better understand what occurred that weekend in Keene, I spoke to a friend of mine who attends Keene College and was exposed to the police response. Freshman Liz Barattini said, “My friends and I were tear-gassed multiple times during the weekend. Also, I was shot by rubber bullets a number of times as well.” When asked if she believed the police were justified in their response, Barattini said, “Honestly, yes. Everyone was going insane and they had no choice but to take the action that they took.” Barattini added that she, along with many others, did not disperse when instructed to and instead watched the chaos unfold, which is what most likely led to the police taking the actions that they did.
Although initially the police response to the Keene riot appeared to be another case of police brutality, the alternative outcome to a lack of response would have likely caused greater harm to the community. As our nation, and particularly our youth, continue to reel from the Ferguson events and the tragic death of Michael Brown, I for one cannot help but wonder why anyone would risk his or her life by provoking the police. While the jury is still out on the Brown case, there have been many cases of confirmed police brutality in the past several years. How can we affect change and demand accountability from our police force if we engage in behaviors that justify an extreme response?

I believe that the first step in solving this issue is to approach it from a different perspective. I am certain that if it had been my property being vandalized during the festival, I would have wanted police intervention. Therefore, police response cannot be entirely negative when I am certain that many other people share my view. Additionally, in order to enact change, more people, especially young people, need to realize that they cannot flagrantly thumb their nose at authority and then cry police brutality; if rubber bullets and tear gas are not enough to disperse a crowd and the next level of force is used, the perpetrators are ultimately responsible.

About The Author

-- Online Editor-in-Chief Emeritus-- Digital Journalism

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.