Following a warning issued by the Madison Police Department against hosting parties for the annual Mifflin Street Block Party, student-run accounts and apparel brands continue to share promotions for the event on social media.
In a written statement to The Badger Herald, @mifflin21 on Instagram said they are “a grassroots movement run by University of Wisconsin students not affiliated with any other organizers.”
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The account posted photos and videos with captions such as “Give me liberty or give me death” and “IT’S HAPPENING.” Since its first post Sunday, the account has gained over 700 followers.
In their statement to The Badger Herald, the account said the party has played a vital role in cultivating a sense of community for many years.
“There was a sea of ambiguity surrounding the party this year, and we want to make sure that students are made aware of their rights and can have fun in good conscience,” the account said.
In a letter sent to Mifflin residents earlier this month, MPD said the party “will not be a City permitted or sanctioned event,” reminding people living on Mifflin Street of Public Health Madison and Dane County’s Emergency Order #15.
PHMDC Communications Coordinator Morgan Finke said the order took effect April 7 because there is little evidence of transmission happening in outdoor settings, especially when distance is maintained.
“That being said, now is not the time to let our guard down,” Finke said in a written statement to The Badger Herald. “With more transmissible variants present in our community, we must continue to follow local guidelines — including wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining physical distancing.”
The order limits indoor gatherings to 150 people with six feet of physical distancing required if there are people eating and drinking. It also removed limits on outdoor gatherings as long as people maintain six feet of physical distance.
The MPD letter said if they have to investigate indoor or outdoor house parties on Mifflin Street, they will “strictly enforce” unlawful creation of a health nuisance, underage drinking, procuring and dispensing alcohol, open intoxicants on public streets and unreasonable noise.
“As you consider which activities to participate in, keep in mind all activities contain some risk,” Finke said in a written statement. “As an individual or a family, make choices based on your comfort with risks.”
Apparel company Wisconsin Red started a Facebook event for the party with a note saying everyone who attends should continue observing city ordinances and adhere to rules and regulations.
In an interview with The Badger Herald, Wisconsin Red owner and founder Steven Farina said the brand’s involvement is to “promote buzz” and “create a forum” about the long-standing Mifflin Street Block Party tradition.
“For 2021 specifically, I think it is an opportunity to support small businesses … they’ve been impacted severely by COVID,” Farina said. “Mifflin, outside of the block party itself, has always been an opportunity for businesses … and I think that is something they drastically need right now.”
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Wisconsin Red continues to promote the event on their social media accounts, with the block party event image containing the “Wisconsin Red” logo.
Though the brand included a disclaimer at the bottom of the Facebook event stating they were “not affiliated with the creation and/or gathering of Mifflin Street Block Party in any way,” the “Tickets” section link on the Facebook event leads back to the Wisconsin Red apparel page.
In response to questions about COVID-19 safety concerns regarding the gathering, Farina said Wisconsin Red has no direct involvement in the creation or entertainment for the event nor do they sell tickets as the link is just to their merchandise.
While the brand has shared and disseminated information about the gathering on its platforms, Farina said attendees are individually responsible for their actions and should follow public health guidelines.
“It’s essential people adhere to guidelines, whatever that may mean for them,” Farina said. “Like any college campus, college students are going to be college students. We certainly can’t control what they do and don’t do.”
Badger Nation Clothing, a brand which sells Madison-themed apparel, also promoted the event and 2021 Mifflin Street Block Party wear on their account. In a written statement to The Badger Herald, the Badger Nation Instagram account said they originally supported the event due to the lifted Dane County restrictions under Order #15.
In a follow-up statement, Badger Nation said to The Badger Herald they were uninformed about MPD’s message on the party and said they no longer support the event after learning about the letter. They subsequently removed all posts about Mifflin merchandise Monday night before reposting them Tuesday morning.
The Badger Herald reached out for further comment on their present position and have not received a response.
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Despite MPD warnings, @mifflin21 said their goal is to ensure the University of Wisconsin and the police “do not ignite fear in students who want to participate in the event.”
“Since 2013, the City has not issued permits for the party and has not sanctioned the event,” @mifflin21 said in a written statement to The Badger Herald. “The event has still been held every year with the exception of last year.”
@mifflin21 claimed that as long as the majority of the gathering remains outdoors, the MPD does not have legal jurisdiction to hand out citations on the basis of gathering alone.
The MPD letter said the UW Dean of Student’s Office and the Office of Student Conduct will assist in holding students who engage in illegal activities on Mifflin Street accountable.
Digital News Editor Erin Gretzinger contributed to this article.