Keene Pumpkin Festival Riots

One of the photos released by the Keene Police Department in their effort to engage the public's help in identifying rioters
Credit Keene Police Department

NHPR's coverage of the October 2014 riots in Keene, N.H. during the city's annual Pumpkin Festival.

Courtesy Kaitlyn Coogan / Keene Sentinel

  Let It Shine, the group that organizes the Keen Pumpkin Festival, and city officials are at an impasse as this year’s festival hangs in the balance.

After the riot that took place during last years’ pumpkin festival, Let It Shine was saddled with an unusually high bill due to the added police response needed to control the disturbance.

It has already paid about $60,000 of the $90,000 bill and is now asking the city for approval to move forward with this year’s festival.

Let It Shine, Inc.

The organizers of the Keene Pumpkin Fest have proposed a new public safety arrangement for next year’s event.

The organizers only want to be responsible for safety and security within the festival’s footprint.

In a Facebook post, Let It Shine, Inc. – the Pumpkin Festival’s non-profit organizer – said in 2015 it would like the city of Keene and Keene State College to take charge of controlling rowdy college students in neighborhoods near the event.

Courtesy Kaitlyn Coogan / Keene Sentinel

The group that organizes the Keene Pumpkin Festival says it will review a $90,000 bill for overtime costs related to riots that happened near the festival this October.

City officials say the bill is to pay for police, firefighters and public works employees who had to stay to deal with the mayhem that ensued a few blocks away from the festival.

Ruth Sterling organizes the event for the nonprofit group Let It Shine, and says its board will meet next week to decide how to move forward.

She did not say whether the group plans to pay the bill.

Courtesy Kaitlyn Coogan / Keene Sentinel

Advocates for keeping Keene’s annual Pumpkin Festival going said at a forum Tuesday the loss of revenue to local nonprofits would be devastating, while those who want to see the festival end raised concerns about whether the riots that marred this year’s festival will get worse.

"Is it responsible to dig in our heels when there is a very real possibility this will happen again?" said Beth Truman, a Keene resident and Pumpkin Festival volunteer. "Luckily this didn't result in any deaths, but what if there is a death next year? ...It is time for it to end."

NHPR / Michael Brindley

This week, Keene residents will gather to discuss the future of the city’s Pumpkin Festival.

It’s been more than a month since riots marred this year’s festival, and led to dozens of arrests and thousands of dollars in damage.

After several years of issues involving college-aged adults, some believe it’s time for a change.

Jason Smart says the city’s annual Pumpkin Festival is one of his busiest days of the year.

“My store is packed, nonstop, all day long, which is, as I say it, most people say, ‘Oh, that sounds really good.’”

Melanie Plenda for NHPR

For many Keene residents, the wounds are still fresh.

"This is an emotional issue," said Jessica White, who started the Facebook Page "Keene Pumpkin Festival Move it or Lose it" and moderated a forum Thursday night focused on the events of that weekend. "We were hurt. We were embarrassed. Embarrassed is a big one."

On Oct. 18 and 19, more than 2,000 college-aged adults overwhelmed police, started street fires, threw full liquor bottles at emergency officials tending to the injured, toppled light poles and tipped cars for more than eight hours.

Keene Police Department

 

Keene police have made the first arrest as a result of asking the public for photos of the violent disturbances during a family-friendly pumpkin festival last weekend.

Police say 19-year-old Jacob Clark of Chichester threw a beer bottle at a police officer. He was charged Thursday with a felony count of reckless conduct. He was released on $500 bail and is due back in court Nov. 6.

Courtesy Kaitlyn Coogan / Keene Sentinel

Keene police say they may pursue subpoenas as they work to identify those responsible for the mayhem that occurred during last weekend’s Pumpkin Festival.

Police say the subpoenas will be used to identify account subscriber information for phone numbers and social media accounts.

Officials say social media played a significant role in the riots that occurred in Keene Saturday and into Sunday morning.

And that’s where they’re now looking for evidence.

Keene Police Department

Keene police have released two dozen photos from this weekend's riots and are asking the public to help identify the suspects.

"These subjects can be seen engaging in criminal acts, if identified, will be arrested and charged accordingly," the department said. 

Police said earlier this week they've already made 84 arrests connected to the riots, which took place Saturday afternoon and escalated again later that night and into Sunday morning.

NHPR / Michael Brindley

There have already been 84 arrests made in connection with the riots in Keene over the weekend, as police continue to scour video and photos on social media for additional culprits.

At a press conference in Keene City Hall, Police Chief Ken Meola said there’s been trouble at Pumpkin Festival in the past, but nothing like what the city saw this weekend.

“These were gatherings that occurred on public property, disrupting traffic, disrupting people’s lives, disrupting the quality of life, putting people in potential for some serious harm.”

FinnaRageTV.com

This weekend, Keene’s annual Pumpkin Festival ended in chaos.

The main part of the festival downtown was mostly untouched. But just down the road, in a neighborhood abutting Keene State College, young people charged through the streets, hurling beer bottles at police in riot gear.

And city and state officials are laying at least some of the blame on social media, and they've named one small party-hosting company. 

So, how in the world did Keene’s annual Pumpkin Festival - a subdued, family event - turn into this…

Courtesy Kaitlyn Coogan / Keene Sentinel

Governor Maggie Hassan says a company may have staged the massive house parties that broke out into riots in Keene Saturday and early Sunday morning.

After meeting with officials from the city and Keene State College Sunday, Hassan explained the parties were broadcast on social media.

"As far as we can tell," Hassan says, "there are companies now that advertise parties around certain events often near college campuses, attract people there, and the people are encouraged to do things that are then videotaped and put on social media."

Melanie Plenda for NHPR

Before riots overshadowed the festivities in Keene on Saturday, thousands gathered in the city's downtown for the annual spectacle of thousands of jack-o'-lanterns lining Main Street.

Click above to see a gallery of some of the pumpkins, which include corporate-sponsored carvings, political messages, and at least one marriage proposal. 

Michael Moore / Keene Sentinel

 

Keene State College students are cleaning up from a chaotic weekend after parties near the city's annual pumpkin festival turned violent.

Dozens of people were injured and arrested as crowds overturned cars, set fires and hurled bottles at police, who responded with riot gear and tear gas.

Police did not have a final count of arrests Sunday, but the department's police log shows officers responded to 235 calls between 2:30 a.m. Friday and 3:30 a.m. Sunday and made at least 49 arrests.

Courtesy Kaitlyn Coogan / Keene Sentinel

Police turned out in riot gear to try to quell the violence that erupted in the neighborhoods surrounding the Pumpkin Festival in Keene Saturday.

Initial police and fire reports indicate that police and EMTs had to dodge bottles and other debris from the hostile crowd as they tried to tend to the injured.

Stephanie Konopka of Swanzey was visiting the festival with her 12-year-old daughter Saturday afternoon, and said her car was surrounded by a mob of hundreds of college age students while driving down Winchester Street at about 2 p.m.