Block party turns violent

Block party turns violent

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MADISON (AP) — An annual block party organized in 1969 to protest the Vietnam War turned violent when firefighters tried to douse bonfires set in the street and wound up pelted with bottles.

Police in riot gear also became targets during the melee that started late Saturday at the Mifflin Street block party and continued into the early hours of Sunday morning.

"Alcohol was probably the primary catalyst," Madison Police Lt. Bob Morgan said.

Two police officers and one firefighter were treated and released for injuries from thrown bottles or objects, a police press release said. Authorities also reported that a car was pushed on its side and burned, and a Molotov cocktail, or makeshift fire bomb, was thrown at officers.

Morgan estimated Sunday that eight people had been arrested. He did not have damage estimates and could not say if any people remained in jail.

Bernadette Galvez, a fire department spokeswoman, said a fire truck sustained about $10,000 damage, with its windshields and all other glass parts shattered.

"It's bad," she said. "It's like the riots of the '60s."

The Mifflin Street block party, in a neighborhood not far from the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, started in 1969 as an anti-war protest and has continued annually as a counterculture festival with varying themes, attendance and sponsors.

Saturday's violence was an ugly ending to a party that began peacefully. When the main music stage was cleared about 7 p.m. Saturday, police had made no arrests and issued no tickets.

Police Lt. Lew Bennett said the crowd was steadily declining about 8 p.m. before the problems started.

But when darkness fell, the peaceful gathering turned into a repeat of last year's event, with bottles being thrown and fires lighting up the street.

At about 11 p.m., a large bonfire was started on Mifflin Street and police and fire personnel who tried to put the fire out were hit with bottles and other objects, the release said.

Officer donned riot helmets and called in for reinforcements, and eight fires were put out, the release said.

By 3 a.m. Sunday, authorities were able to clear the streets, the release said.

At its peak, 3 p.m. Saturday, more than 15,000 party-goers turned out to attend house parties, drink beer, and listen to local musicians. The crowd packed the 400 and 500 blocks of West Mifflin Street and spilled over onto another street and into area backyards.


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