Madison police cracked down on enforcement of city ordinances during the unofficial Mifflin Street Block Party on Saturday, with a significant officer presence leading to diminished numbers of student attendees at the event.
The annual block party saw a subdued public presence on the street overall, with more police than party-goers present at several points throughout the day. Police efforts resulted in significantly fewer attendees and fewer incidents than in previous years, according to a Madison Police Department statement.
The exact number of citations had not yet been released on Sunday night, but the number will be significantly lower than the 545 citations issued at last year’s event, according to an MPD statement. There were also no significant incidents, the statement said.
Police were also sent home earlier than in past years, according to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4. The dedicated arrest processing center was vacant for the majority of the day, he added.
MPD spokesperson Joel DeSpain said police arrested two individuals by 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Lt. Dave McCaw said the low number of citations indicated law enforcement was successful in reining in Mifflin. He said people were willing to listen and respect MPD’s approach to the event.
This year’s unofficial Mifflin Street Block Party was one of the least-attended and most peaceful events in the party’s history, Verveer said.
On April 10, Madison Police Department officials announced the city would no longer sanction the Mifflin Street Block Party as an official event.
Madison’s alcohol policy coordinator Mark Woulf later clarified the city was not canceling the block party because the event could not be city-sanctioned without a group or business to sponsor the event’s permit.
In April, MPD officers distributed pamphlets about block party regulations to Mifflin residents. Tenants said officers were friendly, but they also discouraged them from throwing house parties. UW student Hillary Kump said officers warned her of the risks involved with throwing a party on Saturday.
“[The officer] said they could come in and give a citation without giving a warning first,” Kump said.
Several residents said they were glad the police had a strong presence on the street.
UW junior Matt Glutch said he was playing games with friends in front of their apartment on Mifflin Street. He said police officers reminded them to call for help if they needed to.
“They said to let them know if someone tried to come up and get in [our apartment],” Glutch said. “They were really nice.”
Other residents said they felt the police acted unpredictably at times and officers gave citations to people when they made honest mistakes.
Some party-goers said police alternated between extremes, with some officers allowing residents to take photos with their horses, and then, without missing a beat, arresting a man who crossed the street with alcohol in hand.
Madison resident Rosemary Lee, 75, said the number of police officers was “excessive” and
reduced her enjoyment of the event. She said she counted about 18 officers within one city block
of Mifflin Street.
“I cannot condone the heavy handedness and what, I think today, is the excessive amount of
law enforcement from the agencies that are here,” Lee said. “I know the police have to make sure
everybody is safe … but still there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.”
Several students said MPD’s inconsistent enforcement of city ordinances unfairly targeted Mifflin, adding to their skepticism of law enforcement.
Residents of Mifflin Street said officers were vague when they explained the ordinances police would enforce. Determining whether a party was legal was highly subjective, Drew Doering, a
recent UW graduate, said.
UW senior Zhanna Godkin said there was a stark difference between how MPD enforced ordinances on Mifflin compared to other weekends throughout the year.
“I can’t take them seriously anymore,” Godkin said. “Two days ago, we were having a party [with alcohol] on the sidewalk … and there was a cop sitting right there and he wasn’t doing [anything].”
UW senior Nicholas Karl said Mifflin’s character had changed. He said he felt he was no longer drinking at “Mifflin the party,” but rather on “some street named Mifflin.” He blamed the police, but only partially.
“Pigs ruin Mifflin,” Karl said. “I want them to know that they’re pork on a horse. You can’t get mad at the people following orders, you gotta get mad at the people giving you orders.”