Were you in Keene over the weekend? In case you haven’t heard of it, Keene is a small city in New Hampshire with about 22,000 residents. (Keene “is a GREAT place to live,” according to the city’s Web site.) Did you attend the Keene Pumpkin Festival? If so, we hope you are okay, since it looks like things got a little out of hand:
Look, we are not in the business of telling people how they should or should not celebrate pumpkins. Some people carve faces into them or cook the seeds or buy “pumpkin”-“spice”-flavored beverages way before it is seasonally appropriate. Other people riot and throw bottles and flip cars and generally give pumpkin revelry a bad name. The civil unrest stemmed from “violent parties” near the pumpkin festival involving lots of college kids, parties that got out of control before police put on riot gear and used tear gas and, ultimately, arrested at least 14 people, according to the Associated Press. It was reminiscent of Ferguson, one might say, if one was willing to equate years of simmering tension finally boiling over with a bunch of college kids setting things on fire.
Or, to put it another way: Police had to “disperse a rowdy crowd,” as CNN reported.
Officials in New Hampshire have promised swift action to identify and punish the people involved in the violence. New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) decried “the sad destruction” in Keene and promised a thorough review of what happened.
“Like most New Hampshire citizens, I am outraged by the irresponsible, terrible actions that marred a New Hampshire tradition,” she said in a statement. “I am confident that law enforcement will continue to investigate and prosecute individuals who are responsible, and I am calling on New Hampshire colleges and universities to take swift action to hold students involved accountable.”
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Meanwhile, Anne Huot, president of Keene State College, stressed that the school “does not tolerate the outrageous behavior” from these outside (in that they were physically standing outside) agitators. “We are actively working to identify the individuals who participated in unlawful behavior, and those who are identified will be held accountable,” Huot said in a statement. “We are reviewing images, videos, media coverage, social media postings, and information we have about off-campus residences. The most serious offenders will face interim suspension, followed by conduct action up to, and including, expulsion.”
The Keene Pumpkin Festival, if you are wondering, posted a statement saying that the situation Saturday “gave us many lessons; sorting them out and learning will take time.” The festival also reported that more than 1,500 jack-o-lanterns were “disqualified … because they were unfit.”
The scourge of pumpkin-related violence has gone on for far too long in this country (it has gone on since this weekend) (which is still too long, if we’re being honest). Riots — or “rowdy crowds,” if you prefer — also broke out in Morgantown, W.Va., another college town, after the West Virginia Mountaineers upset Baylor University, at the time the No. 4 team in the country. The university issued a statement promising that they were “reviewing videotapes and social media posts” to find and arrest anyone involved in these riots. We’re just lucky the Baylor upset didn’t occur at the same time as this year’s West Virginia Pumpkin Festival (which was two weeks earlier), or else we may have woken up Sunday to find a smoldering, pumpkin-strewn pit between Virginia and Ohio.