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Pumpkin Festival Destroyed by Riots in Keene

Saturday, October 18th, was the Keene Pumpkin Festival in Keene, N.H. The festival, a staple in the community, was marred by riots last week.

The festival usually includes the Great Pumpkin Mile Race, a costume parade, street performances, bandstands, and different shopping or crafting activities planned throughout the day. One of the main events is the lighting of the jack-o-lanterns. Annually, the festival attempts to break the Guinness World Record for lit jack-o-lanterns in one place. This year’s tally (21,912) fell short of the world record set at last year’s festival (31,581).

The festival typically ends around 8:30 p.m. “Peace in the City at 12:30 p.m., and everyone wakes up happy at dawn,” a statement on the festival’s official website said.

But those were different thoughts.

The night took a turn for the worst when college students in the area began to cause a ruckus.

Payton Broadhurst, freshman at Keene State, was in the midst of the riots. “People were lighting stuff on fire and throwing glass beer bottles,” she said. “The people around me that were part of the riots were crazy and destroying everything.”

Students overturned vehicles, uprooted traffic signs, and fought with law enforcement officials.

Officers responded with force.

“[The police were] forming walls attempting to direct people and they were firing pepper spray, paintballs, tear gas, and rubber bullets,” said Jeremy Schneider, a sophomore at Keene State. “Before the riots, during the bottle wars the students were having, the police just stood around and did nothing.”

There have been 84 known arrests in connection to the riots. More are expected. Police are investigating the situation and are seeking to reprimand those responsible for destruction.

“The potential for someone being seriously injured or killed was there,” said Colonel Robert Quinn of the New Hampshire State Police.

Deryn Smith, a University of New Hampshire student who was visiting friends at Keene, explained the chaos that he saw that night. “People were jumping off buildings, and shopping carts were thrown at people, and people were taking down street signs,” said Smith. “I saw someone start a fire, and then they tipped a car too. They smashed the windows on a bunch other cars too.”

With this potential came many injuries, ranging from mild to high-risk. “Some girl was walking by, and as a cart got thrown, it hit her and I learned that she is paralyzed,” Broadhurst said.

“I also learned that someone is blind in one eye because they got hit with a rubber bullet,” Broadhurst continued. “Another resident assistant has permanent nerve damage in her right arm because she was on crowd control outside and got hit with a flying broken beer bottle.”

Keene State College President Anne Huot said she is working closely with police to find individuals who are responsible for damages. Expulsion is being considered as a punishment.

Social media has played a prominent role in the investigation to identify individuals. Photos have been posted on WMUR for the public to help identify the rioters.

Huot states, “We have already identified some people from photographs. They will be appropriately sanctioned.”

Students at Keene State have said that they are disgusted with the actions that took place that night.

“A lot of the damage was caused by visiting students, while many Keene state students wanted to party, but not participate in the riots,” Schneider said. “Most students at Keene are disappointed that having fun at a party had to turn into a riot.”

Schneider also added that many at Keene State wanted the public to know that a large portion of those involved in the riots were visitors to the University.

Students woke early on Sunday morning to clean up the shattered glass, beer cans, and uprooted signs from the riot, putting their community in a better place than when they had last seen it.

“Many of the Keene State students were out cleaning, but the damage was mainly in one parking lot to a lot of cars and lamp posts,” Schneider said.

“The school is still deciding what to do, and wondering how to deal with the endless amounts of damage, public ridicule, and police problems,” he said

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