On Monday Oct. 20, City of Keene officials held a press conference to talk about the riotous behavior that took place over the weekend. The panel featured Keene Police Chief Kenneth Meola, N.H. State Police Officer Col. Robert Quinn, Mayor of Keene Kendall Lane and Keene State College President Anne Huot. Each spoke briefly before opening up to questions from the press that attended.

“We were able to contain it and eventually disperse it,” Meola said of the crowd that filled the streets of Winchester St. and surrounding areas. According to Meola, the biggest problem with Saturday afternoon was how early parties started and how big they got. Around 1:00 p.m. a party on Wilcox St. started, and around the same time a party on Winchester Ct. was developing. Within an hour or so, both these areas had groups estimated of at least 1,000 people each, according to Meola. This is where police stepped in. “The potential for serious injury was there,” Quinn said.

Things got out of hand when people began throwing things at each other. When the police arrived, they turned their attention to the cops. “People were throwing rocks and bottles, now at the police,” Meola said. He later said billiard balls were also thrown at officers by some people. As the day wore on, the crowds got more unruly, with a fire being lit on Blake St. The police formed a perimeter around the street to contain the situation. A car was also flipped on campus at some point during the night.

Tim Smith / Equinox Staff

Tim Smith / Equinox Staff

“The damage was disturbing. The conduct was disturbing,” Quinn said of the crowd’s actions.

According to Meola, OC pepper balls were used to help disperse the crowds in back yards and in the streets. Meola explained the OC pepper balls look like paintballs and are shot out of a gun that looks very similar to a paintball gun. The balls explode on impact, leaving a white dusting of pepper spray where they hit. Meola and Quinn said they thought these balls were effective in their purpose.

On a more positive note, Mayor Lane thought the containment of Saturday’s unscheduled events went well. From Main St., much of what was happening just a few streets away was unknown. No major disasters reached the actual Pumpkin Fest in downtown Keene.

“That was the primary goal, and that was successful,” Lane said. When asked about the types of charges participators involved in raucous behavior could potentially be given, Meola said it could be anything from criminal mischief to aggravated assault. Misdemeanors as well as felonies could be doled out but nothing is “concrete yet,” according to Meola.

The police are still leading an investigation to help find those involved in the unruly behavior that took place. They are looking at social media posts and profiles for those who decided to brag about their Pumpkin Fest mischief. Those who were seeking to do damage, like those who vandalized cars and even flipped one will be targeted.

According to the police, 84 people were arrested Friday and Saturday in relation to the riots, but other events that took place will require further investigation as to who partook in the vandalism and riotous activity. KSC President Anne Huot held a forum at the college scheduled at 7:00 p.m. later on Monday, Oct. 20 to, “Give our students a chance to be heard.” The president said she has heard dozens of students express their concern about the events that took place over the weekend, especially Saturday.According to Meola, this year wasn’t all that different than last year. “Last year’s behavior was actually quite similar,” he said.

The biggest difference, though, is that the big groups and parties last year took place on two yards on Winchester Ct., right next to each other in the same area, where the police were able to contain the problem. Since it was all in the same area away from major roads like Winchester St. and Davis St., party-goers didn’t flock to the streets when parties were broken up. President Huot said she hopes the problems of this year can be solved and issues like this won’t happen in the future. Huot said, “We have to come together as a community and find a mutual solution to these issues. We cannot solve this individually or on our own.”

According to Huot, any KSC students who are found responsible of crimes will be expedited through the judicial process and punished accordingly. Expelling students is an option. As far as the future of Keene’s yearly Pumpkin Fest, no decision has been made regarding the plans for next year. “It’s far too early to determine what the future of Pumpkin Fest will be,” Mayor Lane said. He said he plans to open up a public forum in December to give the community of Keene a chance to voice their opinions on the matter.To conclude his opening statement, Quinn expressed his satisfaction of how the surprise situation was handled, “I don’t think it could have ended any better that evening.”


Skyler Frazer can be contacted at sfrazer@keene-equinox.com

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