University of Wisconsin students held their annual Mifflin Street Block Party April 24 , against warnings from the Madison Police Department and Emergency Order #15 from Public Health Madison & Dane County. Still, thousands of people, most of which were students, chose to ignore the COVID-19 restrictions.
As a Badger myself, I am sad, angry and frustrated, partially because of the double standard policing and partially because the block party was potentially a super spreader event, endangering the health of students.
First of all, the gathering was not permitted by the city in any way. This blatant violation of a public order happened, and MPD did absolutely nothing. As a matter of fact, several officers even participated in drinking games with students instead of doing their jobs.
The Mifflin party was a local event that clearly illustrated the double standard of policing after the Capitol riot in January. MPD officers were supposed to stop the un-permitted party from breaking the law, yet they just watched it happen. The police were sent to maintain public order, yet Mifflin was full of chaos.
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So MPD chose to let officers play games with students at an unlicensed party, but arrested and used full force against students during peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration? How does this make sense? These officers should have protected the students and the Mifflin residents’ properties. Instead, right under their nose, some students got away with vandalism.
Involved officers should face suspension for not doing their jobs and participating in unsafe gatherings. They contributed to the spread of COVID-19 and violated public safety protocols. MPD has chosen to remain silent in regards to those officers who partied with students, ignoring their own warnings and regulations.
Students involved in the block party should face disciplinary consequences, as UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank stated previously. Those students who went to the block party severely undermined the university’s COVID-19 policies and the effort to stop the spread.
Those who went to the Mifflin block party were extremely selfish. They attended the event knowing they may spread COVID-19 to other people, who may or may not have severe reactions. If someone suffers from severe illness because one of the attendees spread COVID-19, should the attendee face legal consequences?
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Studies have shown that even a fully-vaccinated person can have a positive COVID-19 test result. Vaccinated populations can become asymptomatic carriers of the virus, and therefore potentially spread it to others.
Both MPD officers and students should face consequences, as they failed to prevent a super spreader event from happening in the midst of a global pandemic. But, UW also bears some responsibility in this.
After the party, only students who committed vandalism and property damages were prosecuted for crimes. The university did nothing to stop the block party from happening, they just sat back and watched it happen.
One of the reasons why so many people attended was because the university rushed to reopen without fully considering all the consequences. Do you really expect all college students to follow every COVID-19 policy?
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So, what should have happened? MPD and the University of Wisconsin Police Department should have set up parameters to stop students from attending in the first place. Those who failed to comply or disobey public orders should have been arrested.
Some may argue the block party is protected by “freedom of association” under the First Amendment, but the pandemic presents a “clear and present danger,” therefore, the First Amendment is suspended for public safety.
This year’s Mifflin party proved the double standards that exist within policing. It also clearly illustrated UW’s inability to protect its students and enforce its own rules.
Ken Wang ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science.