Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


They’ll still go

Students who attend this year’s Mifflin Street Block Party will be met with a full force of police officers who will be fighting underage drinking with zero tolerance. The annual party has struck strong debate within the community after a dangerous event last year.

The time has come for the much awaited and much debated 2012 Mifflin Street Block Party, when students and residents from throughout the region will be met with a very different atmosphere than in previous years.

City officials, Madison Police Department officers and University of Wisconsin students have worked throughout the year to ensure the 2012 Mifflin Street Block Party is safer than last year after record arrests and increased violence redefined the annual event.

Mayor Paul Soglin said the new measures of increased police force, along with rules governing alcohol consumption and partying, are the result of a need for increased safety from both alcohol poisoning and physical violence or assault.


“While some folks may think we are pulling back too hard, I really hope we have fewer knifings and sexual assaults [at this year’s event],” Soglin said.

Still, he said the measures taken this year to curb what some have called the “drinking culture” of the block party are not the sole result of last year’s arrests and violence.

Instead, he said there have been incidents at past Mifflin Street block parties as well as incidents outside the block party that occurred because of the result of people drinking too much.

“Things started changing significantly in the mid-1980s,” Soglin said. “It’s been a rocky road ever since – some years have been better; some years have been worse than others.”

UW Dean of Students Lori Berquam said she hopes to see a more controlled party this year, calling last year’s event a “debacle of open containers and unchecked unruliness.” She said her concerns lie primarily in safety in terms of both the amount of alcohol consumed and the prevalence of sexual assault.

Additionally, she said she worries about other physical assaults, including the stabbings that occurred last year in which one UW student sustained serious injuries.

Madison Police Department spokesperson Joel DeSpain said the police hope people will come to the party and enjoy themselves while being respectful and following the law.

“The biggest change is, unlike last year, people can’t consume alcohol on the streets and sidewalks,” DeSpain said. “It was a very dangerous party last year. Officers were injured. Someone almost died from a stabbing.”

He said when he used to attend the party in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the party did not feel dangerous. The structure and political overtones gave the event more meaning. Without sponsorship or structure, he said it just becomes about drinking.

DeSpain said one of the major efforts by MPD this year will be controlling the number of people on the streets who are not connected to Wisconsin or the UW System.

“These aren’t just UW students; they are from other campuses and they’re down on Mifflin,” DeSpain said. “My experience has been it’s not UW students primarily who create the most serious problems. … There’s pride in this school, and I think most people feel that.”

UW senior and Mifflin resident Jake Barreau said he signed up his house with the MPD protection plan for Mifflin residents. The plan gives residents the opportunity to call the police if they feel a party in their house has gotten out of hand.

Barreau said he and his roommates attended the informational Mifflin Neighborhood Meeting Wednesday night and learned from police, fire department officials and student officials about the plan’s parameters.

“It really saves us in case something gets out of hand or there’s someone there we don’t want,” Barreau said. “As an attendee in past years, I haven’t worried about it, but last year it got kind of out of hand.”

Barreau said he has heard from many underage students that they are scared to go to the party because of the increased police presence and stricter rules.

He said he is reluctant to invite underage students to his own house because of the threat of fines. He expects more arrests overall at the block party.

“It’s a historical event, and I don’t want one year to tarnish the whole event for Madison,” Barreau said. “I think it has out grown this area. … It’s a Midwest thing. It’s too big for the Mifflin Street area, but we’ll see what happens this year.”

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