Violence sparks outside Keene State College

Students gather on Wilcox Terrace in Keene, NH. Students gather on Wilcox Terrace in Keene, NH.

The annual Pumpkin Festival in Keene, NH ended in several injuries and dozens of arrests as students from Keene State College and surrounding schools rioted on Saturday, October 18th.

The destruction began Saturday afternoon as two large groups, about one thousand students each, gathered on Wilcox Terrace and Winchester Court. What began as two house parties turned into riots with people chanting, throwing beer bottles, cans and other objects, tearing street signs from the ground, and other riotous behavior.

State and local police used tear gas and guns containing rubber bullets to clear out the large crowds. Many students were injured with lacerations to the head from glass bottles that were thrown.

On Saturday night, a fire was set on Blake Street, and a riot formed. State police in full riot gear lined the ends of the street, blocking any students from entering. The fire grew and the riot progressed for almost two hours, when police finally moved in formation, deploying tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the mob.

A helicopter circled the area of destruction Saturday night announcing, “Clear the area. Go back to your homes.”

On the morning of Sunday, October 19th, residents and Keene State College students awoke to incredible amounts of damage with dumpsters rolled out into the streets, vehicles flipped, stop signs ripped out, and roads covered in debris.

Keene State College president Anne E. Huot sent out an email to the student body expressing her concern over the events.

The email stated, “Over the next few weeks, members of our staff will be focused exclusively on identifying those, whether associated with Keene State or not, whose behavior has caused this disruption, and will be bringing those individuals through the College’s judicial system or legal channels.”

The investigation is ongoing but another email from KSC stated that over 30 emails have been sent in to help in the search for those responsible. More arrests are expected.

Mayor Kendall Lane of Keene said, “It is far too early to determine what the future of the Pumpkin Fest is going to be. That is going to be the responsibility of the organizers and the Keene city council as they assess the events of this year and the future of the festival and determine what that future is to be.”