It wasn’t the pumpkins they were smashing.
A quaint pumpkin festival in New Hampshire ended with tear gas, street fires and at least one flipped car on Saturday as mobs of college students and young people turned parts of the town of Keene into a free-for-all.
Social media footage from the scene showed revelers destroying street signs, throwing glass bottles, pushing barricades and hurling curses at the police.
“It’s (expletive) wicked,” Steven French, an 18-year-old from Haverhill, Mass., told the Keene Sentinel. “It’s just like a rush. You’re revolting from the cops. ... It’s a blast to do things that you’re not supposed to do.”
Keene police could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday, but the department arrested at least 49 people over the weekend in the normally sleepy town of 23,419, according to the Associated Press. The Keene Sentinel reported numerous injuries throughout the day, including revelers injured by thrown glass bottles and fireworks.
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said in a statement Sunday that she was “outraged by the irresponsible, terrible actions that marred a New Hampshire tradition.”
The town’s annual Keene Pumpkin Festival is one of its biggest events, bringing millions of dollars to local and state businesses and upwards of 70,000 attendees, according to some estimates. Attendees bring tens of thousands of pumpkins for the festivities.
It’s for those normally tame crowds that the Keene Police Department has been derided for once seeking an armored police vehicle, citing the possibility of a terrorist attack.
Instead, the town, which is home to Keene State College, appears to have been mildly terrorized by its own young people, who massed in the streets for drunken revelry. And as is often the case in any place that young people gather en masse, the events were well-documented on social media.
Young people chucked beer cans and cups at each other, jumped off roofs, tore down, kicked and smashed road signs, set a large fire and chanted profanity, celebrated on top of a flipped car, took selfies in front of lines of riot police, got the attention of a police helicopter, chanted “U-S-A!”, pushed barricades and threw a street sign at police, threw bottles at the police after the police threw tear gas, and left behind a huge mess.
“College students completely got out of hand and threw lots of glass bottles on smaller roads,” fourth-year Keene State student Alex Karabakakis told the Los Angeles Times. "Drunk and disrespectful” revelers also taunted the police with chants, he said.
Karabakakis said he thought the police presence seemed “excessive,” but he added that “reading through Twitter and seeing pics of flipped cars with students taking selfies in front of street fires kind of made me understand the increased police presence.”
“I’m definitely not proud to be a KSC student after seeing this kind of behavior,” Karabakakis said. “KSC is known to have pretty wild parties going on around where the police were yesterday, but I’ve never seen actual riot lines in Keene before.”
Keene State President Anne Huot said that the college was “actively working to identify the individuals who participated in unlawful behavior, and those who are identified will be held accountable.”
“We are reviewing images, videos, media coverage, social media postings, and information we have about off-campus residences,” Huot said in a statement. “The most serious offenders will face interim suspension, followed by conduct action up to, and including, expulsion.”
As for the pumpkin festival organizers, they said in a statement: “Yesterday gave us many lessons; sorting them out and learning will take time.”
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