For one weekend the city of Madison cares about house parties.
This weekend is the Mifflin Street Block Party, a tradition that began the same year as the Herald — 1969. That year, an attempted police shutdown of an illegal May Day block party degenerated into the Mifflin Street Riot, an event that in the years after became the Mifflin Street Block Party.
Of course, it was another Mifflin Street Riot that all but ended the annual Block Party. In 1996, partygoers built huge bonfires in the streets and then attacked the fire trucks that responded; eventually, the police broke up the scene in full riot gear.
Since then, the city has cracked down on the live music, closed street and blatant drunkenness that had embodied the Block Party; this year there will be anywhere from 20 to 40 police patrolling the street.
We say good for the city — house parties like those on Mifflin Street this weekend are dangerous situations for reasons relating to both high-risk drinking and physical safety.
What we want to know is why the city does not seem to care the rest of the year. House parties occur every weekend in Madison, yet police instead focus on patrolling the bars looking for underagers. Sure, the parties are not as concentrated as the Mifflin Street Block Party, but that does not make them any less dangerous. It is only a matter of time until a porch collapses or a house starts on fire, the consequences of which would be unthinkable.
Bars, on the other hand, are regulated and supervised environments designed to accommodate drinking — it is clear to us, between house parties and bars, which requires more police supervision. If the city is truly concerned about student safety, it would make house parties a number-one priority every weekend of the year, not just the first one of May.