An evening of colorful Mardi Gras festivities became a festival of rioting crowds and criminal activity on South Street. Tuesday evening. The crescendo of violence forced police to make over a hundred arrests for theft, assault, and general drunken rowdiness.
The hazardous nature of the evening began around 8:30, when some early arrivers on South Street pushed pedestrian barricades into the street, trapping numerous vehicles. Police on horseback arrived around 10 p.m. in an attempt to control the increasing chaos, but they were outnumbered by the hoard of energized people.
“It was very crowded, there were so many people that I was pushed on all sides, and at one point I was up in the air and unable to walk,” Robynn Cyr, a freshman BTMM major said. “There were many women flashing men for beads, and the men would become hostile if the women wouldn’t comply.”
Physical violence increased as the night progressed, including fights between groups and attacks upon individuals. Sexual assault was prevalent, and several women were fondled, and stripped of their clothing.
“Four of us girls linked together and walked through a clear area, but we were then swarmed by a group of guys,” Jessica Wleszcyzynski, a freshman business major at Drexel University said. “I was groped between my legs and butt. A man on the street punched me in my face and busted my lip.”
Around midnight, many businesses on South Street were looted, including a state liquor store on Eight St. At Fifth and South streets, a throng of vandals broke windows of police cars and store windows. Police attempted to form some sense of order as their vehicles were vandalized.
“It was definitely a riot,” said Dave Gibson, an undeclared freshman. “I was standing in the thick of the mob of people, I saw a bunch of kids jump on this guy’s car. He got angry and floored the vehicle, and ran over some people. All of these stores were broken into-tons of appliances were stolen from Radio Shack. I think that the police could have handled things in a better way.”
The madness began to subside around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, as police began blockading South Street. The aftermath was a street that had several blocks vandalized. Hot Wax Candles and Accents on Animals had shattered windows. Blondie’s Boutique was looted along with Tower Records and Radio Shack.
Chief Inspector Frank Pryor who was the scene, said “It wasn’t Seattle, we didn’t lose control, but there was a lot of bottle-throwing.”
Despite police efforts, many people feel that this year’s Mardi Gras celebration mimicked the problems of last year’s. Many residents and businesses surrounding South Street have complained of the vandalism and theft induced by the Mardi Gras celebrations.
For many Temple students, the evening was one that they will not forget. Cameron McCormick, a freshman Business Administration major described the evening as “lots of flashing, alcohol, and dancing. It was a great experience.”
However, those who experienced the violent nature of the evening harbor different opinions. Wleszczynski said, “If the event is going to be thrown next year, it should be more controlled by police. I think that it is thrown in New Orleans, and should be kept there.”
The home of Mardi Gras, New Orleans had little to no problems this year. In fact, police there went lax on the issue of flashing for beads.
Seattle, where several people were injured, will cancel Fat Tuesday events in the future, said Mayor Paul Schell.
Mayor Street said that there are no plans for canceling future Fat Tuesday events, though more restrictions, including curfews, would be examined.