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Monday, September 24, 2007

Halloween In Fallujah: Castro Cops Promise Barricades, Ambulances ... Possibly Chaos

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2007 at 8:46 AM

click to enlarge castro_halloween_meeting_001.jpg

A weekend citizens’ task force meeting inspires the question: Why not plan for reality?

By Joe Eskenazi

One could, theoretically, label the vicious barrage of questions recently hurled toward Capt. Rich Dyer (right) “police brutality.” Then again, as the Sheriff’s Department officer had to repeatedly remind the occasionally bellicose Castro crowd, he is not a policeman.

Dyer (who deserves credit for keeping a straight face while speaking from behind the world’s most provocatively decorated podium) fielded questions from ...

several onlookers during a Saturday afternoon community meeting organized by “Citizens for Halloween,” a group hoping to re-institute Halloween celebrations in the Castro in the future and stave off a brutal, disorganized mess in the present.

(You may recall that the city’s official plan for Halloween this year is “stay the hell out of the Castro.” For what it’s worth, The Snitch broke the story first.).

Since it’s a safe bet that the Castro will still be flooded with party-goers come Oct. 31 –the city’s stern command of “don’t come” will likely be as effective as issuing dictums reading “don’t drink too much,” “don’t vomit on the streets” and “don’t shoot each other” – the Citizens for Halloween want to make sure whatever happens resembles a night in Fallujah as little as possible.

Which leads us back to Dyer and his fabulous podium at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center. He fielded questions regarding crowd control, weapons screening and police deployment that led him to utter “I’m sorry, that’s a police matter” or “I’m sorry, that’s a question for the police department” with such frequency that the scene soon began to resemble the Dave Chappelle Fifth Amendment Sketch.

While the Citizens for Halloween – which is led by former District 5 Supervisor candidate Alix Rosenthal and a host of community activists -- invited a bevy of city officials to attend, only Dyer and Assistant Deputy Fire Chief Pete Howes opted to “treat” the group and show up. Mayor Gavin Newsom, Supervisor Bevan Dufty, Police Chief Heather Fong and representatives of Muni, the Department of Public Works and others chose to “trick,” and stay away.

Among the questions Howes and Dyer were able to answer: Yes, there will be some barricades, there may yet be 10-foot-wide emergency lanes and 26 ambulances on standby, there will be extra physicians available, there will be a Sheriff’s Department command ost on 14th and Folsom and there will be many police and Sherriff’s Department personnel available – in the Mission. They’re opting not to flood the Castro with cops but bring in the troops as necessary. The many queries that went unanswered were collected by event organizers, who promised they will press city officials for answers.

Dyer’s revelation that law enforcement professionals wouldn’t be inundating the Castro with men-at-arms and keeping interlopers out of the district by any means necessary was not welcome news among the meeting’s more staunchly anti-Halloween advocates. Members of this group said they’re ready to kiss Halloween goodbye thanks to escalating violence, escalating gay-bashing incidents and escalating defecations between neighborhood cars.

Area resident Mike Babbitt staved off accusations of NIMBYism when he told me he was worried about his front yard.

“It’s grown out of hand. We need to scale back, eliminate it … and then bring back a neighborhood kind of thing we had in the past where neighbors dressed up,” he said.

“I’m in favor of killing [Halloween] in order to save it,” he continued, perhaps unintentionally paraphrasing the chilling line uttered by an unknown U.S. soldier about the February, 1968 incineration of the Vietnamese village of Ben Tre.

Yet one didn’t need to be in favor of reinstating 100,000-person parties of the past to acknowledge that some sort of planning is required to stave off a mob of inebriated hooligans terrorizing the neighborhood on All Hallow’s Eve. If the city has grand plans, Citizens for Halloween organizers would love to know what they are. Incidentally, Dufty’s much-ballyhooed plea for Castro businesses to close has only resulted in 15 of the 120-plus agreeing to do so.

Still, attending Saturday’s meeting left me with an odd feeling (and it had nothing to do with the spiced apple cider or bobbing apples offered up as libations). I just can’t help but wonder – if you’re conceding that large numbers of people will inundate the Castro regardless of the city’s dictum and if you can’t persuade area businesses to close and if you’re already involved in planning the night out to the exacting degree city officials claim they are – well, why not just hold the damn event?

Photo of Capt. Rich Dyer | Joe Eskenazi

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David Downs


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