Madison Police Department Chief Mike Koval released a statement Monday detailing policing strategies for this year’s Mifflin Street Block Party and held a press conference Tuesday to address the event.
Mifflin, which MPD considers a “non-event” because the city does not sanction it, has a long and checkered past. The first party arose from Vietnam protests in 1969, according to Koval’s statement. During that first year, current Madison Mayor Paul Soglin was arrested when riots broke out.
Betsy Osterberger produced this video, which includes photos from The Daily Cardinal
In 1996 riots again broke out, and perhaps the darkest year came in 2011 when two students were stabbed, nearly killing one. Since then MPD has used different tactics for policing the event.
The tactics varied from issuing around 545 citations in 2012 to approximately 40 in 2015. Last year the policing strategy was to ignore the event. Students could even be seen posing for fake arrest photos with officers. This year will not be different, Koval said during Tuesday’s press conference.
“Some people have assumed or will infer that engagement applies only to what happens with boots on the ground at the event,” Koval said. “We’re doing engagement with landlords’ property owners, student groups, the tenants who reside there, well before come this Saturday’s time.
“That’s the Madison method personified. There will be lots of selfies. Although I will tell you that by 6 o’clock, we’re going to strike a better pose… than you guys will be,” Koval said during the press conference.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said he thinks the policing strategy has reached a happy medium.
“Luckily since 2012 the police have from my perspective been a lot more chilled and laid back,” Verveer said. “And so I was reassured again today by the police they do not have a zero tolerance approach to Saturday.”
Koval said their point of emphasis is to hold residents and guests accountable. Officers will inform residents of how to prevent parties from getting “unruly.” He said one effective tool has been posting no trespassing signs on properties to allow MPD to enforce trespassing violations by “raucous attendees.”
Another mitigation factor has been the UW-sponsored event Revelry. However, due to construction on Library Mall and budget cuts, Revelry will be substantially smaller this year and will be hosted in the Orpheum Theater rather than outside.
Koval said in his blog that this could leave a wider window for a greater amount of attendees to consume alcohol at the block parties.
He ended the post by saying MPD will work to find a suitable replacement due to the fiscal cost and public safety concern.
“This date has outlived its useful life and historical significance. MPD will continue to do our part in efforts to downsize and eliminate the event,” Koval said in the post. “While I am generally big on supporting "traditions," this is one "party" that would be better left behind as an institutional memory.”