Below is a screenshot from my facebook wall.
What’s all this?
There might be a few readers out there who don’t know what in the world the Mifflin Street Block Party is and are wondering what the controversy is.
Full disclosure: I have not once attended a Mifflin Street Block Party.
The first Mifflin Street Block Party occurred in 1969 in Madison, Wisconsin. What started out as a groovin’ dance party to oppose the Vietnam War turned into a clash between helmet-clad Madison police who were insisting that the streets remain clear.
Over 100 arrests ensued. One of the individuals arrested was Paul Soglin – the guy who would later be the city’s young mayor. While arrested, police cut his hair. I recently watched the War at Home – a documentary about that era. In it Soglin said he was arrested while trying to drive through, which he found ironic since the police were attempting to keep the street clear for cars. It was dubbed “The Police Riot”. It was full-on billy-club wielding police brutality and the students responded in kind with 3 days of rock throwing fire-setting mayhem.
I should note that the Madison police were also, during that time, according to the film The War at Home, in near constant billy-club-making-contact-with-skull conflict with UW students on campus. UW Madison was THE epicenter for Vietnam War protest.
Since 1969, Mifflin Street Block party has continued yearly at about this time of year. However the Mifflin Street Cooperative quit organizing the event and from all accounts, it has transitioned from being a hippie-centric politically attuned Woodstock wannabe to a boozefest where beer bongs and vomit-spew were welcome.
I thought the Mifflin Street of 2011 was unique in its nastiness.
However, according to surroundedbyreality.com, 1996 was also a shit show:
“Mifflin Street Block Party Riot May 6, 1996
In 1996 the Mifflin Street Block Party turned into a blood-stained, fire-scarred riot that went international on CNN. Immediately after the ’96 riot, a Madison Fire Department spokeswoman was asked by the Associated Press to assess the damage. “It’s bad,” she said. “It’s like the riots of the ’60s.”
The police might have been the bad guys in 1969 – they weren’t in 1996. By noon that Saturday police counted 77 half barrels of beer already tapped. Still, the cops showed restraint. It got ugly at sundown. Huge bonfires were set, two people were stabbed, drunks were pissing on each other, anything that wasn’t nailed down and some things that were went into the fires. Thirty people were injured. That horror scene pretty much took the energy out of the party for the next several years.”
Paul Soglin, is once again the city’s mayor (is this is 3rd time? His 4th? Who keeps count anymore?). After the 2011 Mifflin party had a few stabbings, sexual assaults, robberies, about 32 people with blood alochol levels bringing them close to alcohol poisoning, and two women who couldn’t figure out how or why the found themselves half naked in a parking garage and an office building, Soglin pledged to once and for all end Mifflin Street Block Party. [nice summary of the 2011 police reports is here],
What else is going on:
The UW has another event his weekend that is pretty cool but is much more controlled and it is open to UW students and faculty, MATC folks, and Edgwood college goers. It is not, far as I can tell, open to the general public. Check it out HERE. Revelry 2013 will occur at the Plaza of Union South and extend onto Randall Avenue.
My note to any Mifflin partiers reading this
[seriously it would be awesome if you were also interested in WI politics – but – not holding my breath on that]:
If I were a Mifflin St. reveler I’d keep a lot of sober people around (holding their fully charged videocameras/cellphones of course) doing crowd watch so that if any unseemly behavior breaks out by either partiers or cops, there are good witnesses.
We all appreciate the need to fight for your right to party. It just gets hard to do it if the stabbings start again.
One of the reasons that I got so looped into twitter/blogging/activism back in February of 2011 was that I was worried at the possibility of violence at our protests on the Capitol square. A citizens force kept watch over everything from multiple angles – whether that was twitter or facebook or on site with cameras or with a volunteer citizen patrol… so – that was fantastic and mature of us. We also had a lot of luck in there.
You just need to do whatever you can do in large crowd situations to keep things chilled out and civilized if you don’t want to be maligned. And clearly, despite all the obviously controlled civil behavior from the masses, asshats like Paul Ryan still said we had “riots”.
[Egads. Had almost forgotten he did that.]
Here’s a link to the facebook page of Mifflin Street Block Party.