Halloween may be over and done for this year, but discussion and debate still litters the Madison city scene, with the Madison Police Department presenting members of the Downtown Coordinating Committee with a report of the celebration Thursday night.
Members of the committee agreed city officials and police officers handled the situation well.
“I think people really did an outstanding job,” Ledell Zellers, a member of the committee, said.
Committee chair Ted Crabb said many people tend to focus on the negative aspects of Halloween, like the riot gear and the deployment of pepper spray.
“People lose sight of the fact there were 80,000 people downtown,” Crabb said.
Lt. Mary Schauf, MPD, gave the police department’s point of view of the event and gave a timeline of the weekend’s events beginning Friday night.
Schauf reported police first attempted to warn the crowd of the potential for severe weather by utilizing the street-wide speaker system on the street. She noted it was fortunate the weather did not become as bad as it could have been, since people on the street did not respond to the verbal warnings.
When the lights were turned on at 3 a.m., horses were brought down State Street, according to the lieutenant. A small crowd of approximately 500 to 1,000 partygoers gathered on the street, resulting in a number of arrests.
Schauf added on Saturday night a large costumed crowd developed on State Street. The group continued to grow until 11:50 p.m., when the police determined State Street to be “impassible.”
Schauf said “moshing behavior” began taking place and objects were thrown at about 2 a.m.
“This was the same type of behavior we had last year that escalated into property damage,” Schauf said.
Police responded to the aggressive behavior by sending in horses and officers, but to little avail.
“Horses were being punched, slapped and kicked,” Schauf said.
Aggressive behavior continued to escalate as the moshes turned into small fights.
A fire ignited on the 500 block near the University Inn and State Street Brats. The same aggressive behavior continued while several people began throwing additional objects into the fire, causing the blaze to grow.
“The fire department could not safely get to the fire,” Schauf noted.
By 3 a.m., the police put on protective equipment and formed a line at the corner of Gilman and State. With an authorization to use pepper spray, they began to guide the crowd off of State Street.
“It was so windy, you could smell it for blocks,” Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said.
The crowd dispersed into the surrounding neighborhoods after police efforts. Schauf said Langdon Street was the source of many police reports where patrons threw numerous objects, such as concrete and two-by-fours, at officers.
No officers or citizens suffered any serious injury.
“At 6 a.m. Sunday, you’d have no idea that 80,000 people had been there,” said Verveer, who also praised the efforts of those who worked during the event. “The fact that we had no injuries or property damage was a tremendous improvement.”