Heavy police presence marred Halloween Night

| Nov 2, 2009

Party On. Scene on the Mall Halloween night. (Photo by Jonathan Sackheim. See more photos on his “Don’t Taze Me Br09” Facebook group)

Driving the streets of Boulder on Halloween night was creepy enough … the residential area near the University and downtown was almost empty of trick-or-treaters. But what gave the City a more sinister edge was the number of police on patrol. The local news reported: “Forty police officers patrolled the Mall in pairs, and another 60 were spread out around the city.”

On Halloween night, the City of Boulder was in lock-down. Yes there were costumed strollers on the Mall, and there were patrol cars at every turn. The few people using the City’s parking garages were mostly from out-of-town; most locals stayed away, having been told by the news media that the garages would be closed that night. There were even warnings that Highway 36, which links Boulder to Denver, might even be closed down, if things got out of hand.

On the Hill, on 13th St, the police driving the dark SUV behind me were not paying attention to my driving. Instead, they were crowd-surfing. Spotting a target, the patrol car spun sharply to the left – like some giant black spider – pinning down a would-be reveler on the opposite curb with a spotlight. From the darkness of the car, they shouted questions at their squinting prey. As I pulled away, I saw the man raise his hands chest high, facing out, then take two steps back. The squad car turned off its high beam, forced its way back into traffic, and moved on.

Heading home, I counted three more patrol cars on the prowl within the space of five blocks – turning into alleyways, or slowing down to scrutinize costumed students. They were using their aggressive presence to dampen the spirit of spontaneous celebration, or any celebration at all.

Surely the citizens of Boulder, once touted as the smartest in the country (Forbes magazine), can come up with a better solution than the use of fear to control its partying population. Instead, why not ramp UP the Halloween Party in 2010. We’ve got a year to plan for it. We can bring out street musicians, host a costume parade with judges, and invite the entire community to crawl – at a measured, musical pace – down the Pearl Street Mall. We can even invite the police to dress up in costume with an official Cat-in-the-Hat top hat to let people know who they are, and join in the fun.

Boulder, after all, is host to the #1 party school in the country, the University of Colorado. So why darken the mood of the town on Halloween, the one night of the year when everyone should be full of hi jinks and sugar?

If the Republic of Boulder needs to control the crowds, then let them do it at the borders. Here in town, let’s turn Halloween 2010 into a community party. Since the local merchants need us to spend more money in their restaurants and shops, let’s invite everyone in town, downtown.

Come on Boulder! Put away the handcuffs. Can we become more playful and less serious for just one night?