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Thursday, September 24, 2009

San Francisco Halloween Dies With Neither a Bang Nor a Whimper

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 11:59 AM

click to enlarge The city would prefer you stayed home and watched this cartoon come Halloween rather than make trouble in the Castro
  • The city would prefer you stayed home and watched this cartoon come Halloween rather than make trouble in the Castro
City officials have announced that, come Oct. 31, there will be no large-scale organized parties on All Hallow's Eve -- neither the famed Castro District street happening nor anything along the lines of last year's poorly attended, tightly supervised AT&T Park re-enactment of lame High School dances. This Halloween, you're on your own.

Sans the AT&T Park extravaganza, this is exactly what happened last year; there simply won't be any street closures in the Castro and large -- but not stifling -- numbers of folks will certainly wander around in costume and pump money into the local economy. Supervisor Bevan Dufty -- who represents the Castro -- told SF Weekly this was a "joint decision" that he, the mayor's office, public safety officials, and area merchants hammered out after two or three meetings. "Everyone expects to do great business, but there won't be any street closures so there's not a street party," said the supervisor. "It'll be similar to last year when there was a strong safety presence between sheriffs and firefighters early in the evening. It worked well. People were happy."

If people can wander about the Castro and other San Francisco neighborhoods in costume and revel and carouse in a manner that doesn't impede others' liberties -- hey, that's great. And you'd have to be more than a little selfish to say that the Castro Halloween events -- which, by the time a gunman plugged nine revelers in 2006, had degenerated into a drunken free-for-all in which out-of-towners used the Castro as their personal punching bag and toilet -- weren't in need of a massive overhaul. Still, it's astounding how thoroughly the city has broken the back of this so-called tradition.

When Dufty adamantly declared there would be no Castro Halloween back in August of '07 -- after the city bungled a series of attempts to hold the revelry elsewhere -- it seemed the table was set for legions of entitled "death of fun" types streaming into the Castro against the city's explicit orders and clashing with police. And peeing. Everywhere.

Well, that's not what happened. That's not how it went down at all. Instead, perhaps 600 cops, sheriff's deputies, and others turned the Castro into a police state. Hardly any revelers showed up and just about no one misbehaved -- it would have been unthinkable; it would be like attempting to rob a police station. Even the police told this reporter it was "a downer" to see costumed San Franciscans skulking about and having a terrible time. Right then and there it was obvious: The Castro Halloween tradition was dead. People might have thumped their chests and talked about how it was their right to come and do as they pleased on city streets. But the city had 600 cops handy to make sure no one backed up that talk. Now no one ever will.

If the Castro free-for-all was going to be resurrected, it would have happened last year: Halloween fell on a Friday that also hosted a Critical Mass event. And yet, the elements conspired to deliver a victory into the city's hands: It rained, and a relatively manageable (and law-abiding) crowd hit the Castro. According to Dufty, the real problems erupted in other districts than his own.

So if this year is like last year, Dufty and others hope a splendid time will be had by all. Let's hope he's right. Again, it'd be selfish to turn a blind eye to the problems with crime, violence, and public defecation that went along with the unmitigated revelry of Castro Halloweens past. But, on the other hand, meek compliance with authority enforced by a massive police presence isn't a thrill, either. Hopefully, we'll find some happy medium. Happy medium Halloween, everyone.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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