Mifflin Street Block Party
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The Mifflin Street Block Party is an annual event held in late April or early May by residents of W. Mifflin Street in Madison, WI. The block party has been known for it's large crowds, abundance of alcohol and occasional musical performances. In recent years, the day-long party has been known for the high numbers of arrests.
During the 1960's, Mifflin street was known as the area with a reputation for crime and filthy conditions. However, during the late 60s, it also gained a reputation as a counterculture epicenter, as many activists staged protests against the Vietnam War in the area. One such protest on May 3, 1969, was a dance party held in solidarity with similar demonstrations across the globe. As the protesters had been denied a street use permit, the party eventually degenerated into a riot after police entered the 500 block of Mifflin to break up the celebration. The result was a three-day riot that spread to State Street and Langdon Street. Political undercurrents were standard for the next few years' party, including the 1973, which saw students calling for the release of a suspected fire bomber arrested after shooting three plainclothes police officers as they approached his West Bassett street apartment.
The block party shed the political purposes at the end of the Vietnam era, but continued to take place on an annual basis, with the sponsorship of the Mifflin Street Co-Op. In an attempt to limit the party's impact given its lack of regulation, the city sponsored "Mifflin on the Mall" in 1979. During this time, the city hosted a sponsored festival with concession stands and music on Library Mall. The State Street party drew thousands of party goers while the smaller Mifflin Street Block Party drew hundreds. The Mifflin party regained its dominance in 1982. The co-op started sponsoring stages and beer stands and hired off-duty police officers. At the height of its organization, the party drew between 10-12 thousand people and, in 1990, cost the city only $44.
Loss of permits, riots and regulation
After years sponsoring the event, the Mifflin Street Co-Op pulled out of its sponsorship of the event in 1991. City officials asked that alcohol sold at the event be kept within an enclosed beer garden, which the Co-Op felt would hurt sales. Despite the lack of a street-use permit, students organized their own house parties and backyard stages. This continued until the 25th anniversary party in 1994, when Black-N-Tan productions sponsored an event with music stages, but no alcohol sales. Despite this, the party resulted in two alcohol-related deaths, a reported sexual assault and general disorganization. Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, helped organize the party and bring Paramount Music Hall in as a sponsor of event to provide bathrooms and alcohol. The party ended with some disorderly conduct and citations.
In 1996, revelers started bonfires in the street using furniture, cardboard and nearly banisters. Firefighters attempted to put out the fire, but were attacked by the partyers, who threw bottles and other items at them. As the night ended, 20 police had been injured, eight bonfires had been set and a ladder truck sustained $10,000 in damage. Verveer described the riots as "hellish."
The '96 riots resulted in strict regulations placed on street use, banned food vending and gave the mayor the power to enforce curfew. While residents attempted to move the party to Brittingham Park, the party was held on Mifflin with greatly reduced numbers, but was mainly confined to houses. The city attempted to dissuade participants by putting notices across town and the University of Wisconsin campus letting residents know the penalties for drunk or unruly behavior. The city paid over $60,000 to police officers in overtime to dole out citations for offenses, mostly underage drinking citations. The few hundreds participants who turned out saw a protest for legalization of marijuana.
For the next few years, the parties were mostly confined to house parties, with residents continuing to host bands in their backyards and their porches.
More people, more costs, no sponsors
In 2002, the Mifflin Street saw 20,000 revelers come out, despite city officials rejecting the plan to revive the party. 40 police officers were initially sent to the street, but the numbers doubled later on by 1 a.m. as reinforcements were called to deal with the large crowds. There were still only a few arrests and citations.
However, police presence proliferated in 2003, as a result of the riots that took place during Halloween. A special event team and more than 100 police officers patrolled the party of a record $30,000 people, which saw the arrests of 33 for misdemeanor offenses and a cost to the city of approximately $72,000. In 2004, the city banned glass containers on the streets and set up a processing center in the City-County body, where they issued 235 citations. After more than a hundred follow-up citations and eight arrests, the city racked up costs above $80,000. 2005 participants moved the party back a week so as not to conflict with finals. Police made 225 arrests (including UW football player Booker Stanley, who was arrested for physical altercations with other party-goers) and over issued over 300 citations, with fines rising above $85,000. The event cost the city over $100,000 due to the date switch. The crackdown from a police standpoint continued in 2006 with similar arrest and citation numbers, as well as more emphasis on noise violations. Arrest numbers rose above 400 for the 2007 event.
In 2011, the city of Madison allowed party-goers to carry open containers on alcohol on the street. During the party, there were 160 arrests made, with two stabbing incidents (including one where a UW-Madison student was stabbed 6 times) and more than 20 individuals being sent to detox for over-consumption of alcohol. Additionally, there were three police injuries after officers tried to detain suspects. 
On Monday, May 2, city officials expressed concern about the future of the block party with Mayor Soglin saying that he wanted to end the party.
Attempts at sponsorship, involvement from WSUM
After multiple years of high arrest numbers and citations, Verveer helped push local entertainment promoters DCNY PRO to sponsor the event for the first time since 1995. DCNY PRO originally backed out of the event due to their inability to find a co-sponsor or organizer after the Wisconsin Union Directorate backed out of event in an April 1 decision. However, they jumped back on board after local radio station WSUM 91.7 FM agreed to help provide entertainment with stages featuring their DJs. The event was viewed largely as a success, with significantly fewer arrests (140 in an initial report) and more relaxed environment, with police-partier tensions being greatly reduced.
DCNY PRO has agreed to once again sponsor Mifflin Street Block Party for 2010. They've discussed the possibility of more portable toilets and a beer garden for out-of-town attendees who may not have contact with Mifflin residents.
- ↑ ‘Hammered out of their skulls’ http://badgerherald.com/news/2011/05/01/hammered_out_of_thei.php