Police in Keene, New Hampshire, were out in full riot gear on Saturday night after “hordes of college-aged people” turned the city’s 24th annual Pumpkin Festival into full-fledged mayhem. The incident resulted in dozens of arrests, injuries, and incidents of property damage.
On social media, where images of the destruction were well-chronicled, the Pumpkin Festival fiasco drew comparisons to the Ferguson protests, with some questioning the apparent racial double standard that exists when talking about civil unrest in America.
It’s unclear what exactly turned the Pumpkin Festival, an event where attendees endeavor to break the world record for lighting jack-o-lanterns, into a free-for-all. But many are pointing the finger of blame at the student body of nearby Keene State College.
According to the Keene Sentinel, the Pumpkin Festival also drew thousands of out-of-towners looking to booze it up and party.
“It’s (expletive) wicked,” 18-year-old Steven French 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.”
The Sentinel reported that French was among a group of hundreds who confronted the police, “started fires on the roadway, and pulled down a street sign before slamming it on the pavement.”
Keene police responded to the fracas by deploying anti-riot cops who fired tear gas against the rowdy crowds.
Keene Police were recently featured in a news commentary bit by comedian John Oliver who talked about how the department recently received a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to purchase a BEARCAT, an armored vehicle whose name is an acronym for “Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck,” to combat potential terrorism plots, which may target the Pumpkin Festival (yes, the grant really does mention it).
Fusion was unable to get a comment from the Keene Police Department on Saturday’s events. The police department, which has a budget for military grade equipment, apparently doesn’t have a budget for a public information officer.
For many Twitter users, however, the riots at the Keene Pumpkin Festival served as the perfect opportunity to call out the racialized language used during the Ferguson protests.
Not all the parallels drawn between Ferguson and Keene were somber, however. Some Twitter users employed humor to express the same sentiment.
Also receiving criticism was CNN, which used different language for talking about white civil unrest in New Hampshire versus black civil unrest in St. Louis.
To their credit, hundreds of Keene State College students came out on Sunday morning to clean-up the mess from the previous night.
For their part, the Festival organizers acknowledged on their website that there’s a lot to be learned for what transpired on Saturday. Keene State College administration also said that students involved in the riots could face expulsion.