In 2014, even an annual pumpkin festival can lead to police in riot gear.
That was the scene at the Keene Pumpkin Festival late Saturday night (October 18) and early Sunday morning as an estimated 4,000 students from the nearby Keene State College in New Hampshire, University of New Hampshire, the University of Rhode Island, and University of Massachusetts turned their celebration into a full-out riot.
The festival typically serves as a celebration of fall and a competition of sorts as locals try to set a world record for the largest number of pumpkins in one location (last year, festival goers set a record with 30,581 carved and lit jack-o-lantern pumpkins). However, that was not the case this year as thousands wreaked havoc throughout the night prompting aggressive reactions from local police to end the rioting.
“I watched cops roll in, I watched the fire department roll in, I watched state troopers roll in with their batons out, ready to take on the crowd,” said Julie Conlon, a 23-year-old graduate from the university, to the Boston Globe. “It was crazy.”
At least 30 people were injured and 14 were arrested as local police donned riot gear and used tear gas, canine units, tasers, and pepper spray to end the rioting. Students threw bottles and pumpkins, destroyed street signs, lit fires, and overturned cars and dumpsters.
The rioting has also led to vocal criticisms on twitter from journalists and observers. The hashtags #pumpkinfest and #PumpkinSpiceRiots trended last night as many questioned the reasons for this riot as well as the depiction of the rioters in the media.
Typically a welcoming and open family festival, this year's pumpkin festival unfortunately turned into something quite different and ultimately disturbing.