Smashing Pumpkins: Drunken Keene State College students riot during Pumpkin Festival.

Sure, it was mostly white folks, but we all know the black guy must have started it…or it’s because the white kids are listening to hip hop, that must be it. Or maybe they’re just over privileged, drunken idiots. I am 100% against the militarization of civilian police forces, but since they ARE militarized…where are the MRAPs and the snipers now? Shouldn’t the illegal excessive force at least be equal throughout the land of the free? (not that the situation is even remotely similar to a protest of any sort). But really, showing up in riot gear is usually the best way to start a riot… and with a lot of these kids feeling invincible because daddy’s lawyer will take care of it should they get arrested, a number of them were probably hoping for a violent reaction from police so they could get their 15 minutes of ‘fame’. Maybe they thought the nation would rally behind them, like we are Ferguson. These idiots can’t handle their alcohol…and they riot?  When black and brown people try to protest the murder of a teenager by the police, it’s called a riot and the militarized cops roll in tanks and SWAT and ALL black and brown people are further villainized, and dehumanized and called thugs and animals, and tear gassed and beaten and arrested and blamed for everything. Black people rise up when one of their children gets shot, white people rise up when they run out of pumpkin spiced beer… or am I missing something here?

Should I not generalize? Is it not fair to demonize all white folks based on whats happening in Keene? I can’t wait for all the excuses, “kids will be kids, they’re just letting off some steam”…”they did it because they were drunk, the blacks do it because they’re prone to violence” blah blah blah. If you want to see a good example of white privilege, just pay attention to some of the coverage of this, watch how it’s framed by the media… “they were drunk, everyone makes mistakes…” “of course not all white people are like that”… or better yet, lack of coverage in the media. The cops showing up and making arrests is appropriate for things like this, NOT for peaceful protests. When the police state arrests you for creating an unsafe environment while you’re violently drunk during a ‘family’ pumpkin festival, IT’S NOT THE SAME AS WHEN THEY BEAT AND ARREST PEACEFUL CITIZENS PROTESTING INJUSTICE, IN VIOLATION OF THEIR RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH AND TO PEACEABLY ASSEMBLE. That said, although these kids are idiots, the police state shouldn’t be able to tear gas them. It shouldn’t be legal for the police state to HAVE tear gas or any of these ‘less than lethal’ toys they have and still manage to turn lethal in the hands of these ‘peace officers’. The first time I got tear gassed was in Hartford before a Dave Matthews Band concert. Granted, it was for drunken idiocy amongst some in the crowd, not protesting…but there is no need for a “civilized” nation to use a chemical weapon on human beings, even drunk ones BUT ESPECIALLY PEACEFUL PROTESTERS. It is possible that the students ARE drunken idiots, and the cops DID use excessive force. It’s not mutually exclusive. When they use this excessive force on drunken college kids, they no longer deserve to be called “peace officers” or “civilian police officers” or described as “serving and protecting” the community…but, when they use this force on non-violent political demonstrations, which has long been the case and I’ve experienced first hand countless times, America no longer deserves to be called a democracy.

What happened in Keene will only galvanize people into supporting militarized police, ‘Well, for things like this they NEED all that gear…’. I’m sorry, but 99.9% of the time it will be used on non-violent protesters standing up against the crown, not on drunken college kids. Don’t let this become the one more justification for the militarization of civilian police… if regular, non-militarized police can’t handle a crowd of drunken college student’s, hire more cops for large events like pumpkin fest. If they still can’t handle it, either cancel pumpkin fest, don’t serve booze, or use some of that unconstitutionally obtained NSA data to figure out where the party is, and break it up before it gets out of hand. We need the 1st (and every other amendment). immature college kids do not need a right to have a huge party. But mark my word, many of these fucks will wind up getting jobs working for corporations destroying the planet, and any negative impact that this ‘riot’ has on the people of NH, will only hurt people peacefully protesting the empire in the future. This is NOT the same as Ferguson, or as Occupy, or as Kent State, or even UC Davis. This is stupid, over privileged, immature, drunk college kids…it’s nothing new. That’s what college is for a lot of these idiots, a time to get black out drunk and act like an idiot. If the Keene police can’t handle drunken college students, like I said- for big events, hire more cops- and if they cant handle it in general, GET NEW COPS WHO CAN HANDLE IT. You’re either a good police officer or not, no flack jacket, M-4 or MRAP will turn them into better police officers. Good cops could have handled this situation WITHOUT excessive force. It’s not about ‘policing’ anymore, it’s about reminding us that we’re subjects of the American empire.

I can’t help but think of Emerson College student Victoria Snelgrove who was killed by Boston police by a “non-lethal” beanbag round, while celebrating a Boston Red Sox victory in October 2004, or Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen who was wounded by police during Occupy Oakland after being shot in the head at close range with a tear gas canister and those attempting to administer aid to Scott also targeted by police, or Oscar Grant, shot execution style in the back of the head at Fruitvale Station by a BART police officer who claimed he thought he grabbed his taser rather than his service revolver. Or the countless cases of “non-lethal” weapons, usually tasers, killing undocumented immigrants at the US-Mexico border. Or all the peaceful Palestinian protesters in the West Bank killed by ‘no-lethal’ weapons. Or the Israeli man (and Hampshire College Graduate) I met who lost an eye at a non-violent protest in the West Bank after cops peppered him with a hail of rubber bullets. All of these ‘less than lethal’ or ‘non-lethal’ means of policing all too often turn lethal, and the further militarized civilian police departments become, the more frequent these ‘accidental deaths’ or serious injuries will be. So, shame on the City of Keene for militarizing their police department, and shame on the drunken, idiotic students of Keene State College for acting like assholes and giving the government yet another excuse to beef up the arsenals of local police.

And I’m talking about “non-lethal” or “less-than-lethal” weapons…obviously cops use and abuse their “lethal” weapons far more often. The police shoot and kill black and brown people with the same indifference that the military has for the black and brown people of other countries. Try to imagine for a moment how this would look, how it would be portrayed by the media, and how the police state would have responded if this pumpkin fest was in a predominantly black or Latino community. Just imagine: the same exact thing that happened at Keene’s Pumpkin Festival, but with drunken black people rioting. Not only would the state of New Hampshire likely be under a state of emergency, every major city would probably be as well. “Black people are violent by nature…these thugs, these animals…they’re destroying America”. Cable news would scare masses of white people into putting bigger locks on their doors, and staying the hell our of ‘bad neighborhoods’. People would again tell themselves that that one black friend they have is an exception, he must have had some good white teachers or something, “but most blacks are like that”.

At the end of the day, at it’s core, white privilege means that I will not be wrongfully suspected of committing a crime because of how I look, I won’t be pulled over just because I’m driving a vehicle, or stopped and harassed because I’m walking down a public sidewalk, or shot and killed for being the wrong color at the wrong time…and if I do commit a crime (robbery, murder, rape, DRUGS…) it will reflect ONLY on me and possibly but not even necessarily, my family…that’s it. It won’t reflect negatively on ALL WHITE PEOPLE or even my cousins and friends and neighbors. and similarly, I won’t suffer because of the actions of other people who look like me.  Just that, never mind EVERYTHING ELSE, (structural, social, etc.) is a HUGE PROBLEM and as human beings we cannot be okay with it. We are socialized to view drunk and out of control white college students in places like Keene as ‘rambunctious youth just having some fun’, or at most as ‘just a few bad apples ruining it for everyone’… and to see black people DEMANDING JUSTICE in places like Ferguson, whether silently in prayer or vocally in protest, as ‘thugs’ (which is just a modern and more politically correct version of another word people REALLY want to call them). If one white man murders someone, he negatively represents only himself. If one black man murders someone, of even smokes crack, he negatively represents ALL black people. They all become killers, drug addicts, thieves, gang members, and “thugs” in the eyes of white America. When one white man succeeds, it is because he comes from a hard working community and he fought tooth and nail to succeed, and it reflects positively on the whole community. When one black man succeeds, it is because individually he worked hard and overcame the fact that he should have would up in jail, because that’s where people like him ‘belong.’ or maybe a white teacher or coach is credited. The successes of white folks are collective, and failures individual. The opposite is true with black folks. That mentality MUST CHANGE.

When you look at Ferguson and Keene, you need look no further to see white privilege, need not delve into 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow, racist real-estate practices and bylaws, the ‘war on drugs’, the ‘war on poverty’, imagery of the ‘welfare queen’, the private prison industry, and the fact that little has changed since Dr. Kenneth Clark’s experiments back in the 1940’s. Ignorance is indeed bliss, and at least in respect to race and ethnicity, the majority of white Americans are blissfully ignorant. Many will make excuses for the drunken behavior of the college students at Pumpkin Fest in Keene, because they either see their own kids or grand kids when they look at the pictures, or they see themselves. The fact that we can’t see brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, or ourselves when we look at Ferguson, is because black people (along with many other groups) have been so thoroughly dehumanized since before the birth of the American empire. If they hadn’t been so dehumanized, slavery would have been impossible. Just like it would be impossible to sit back and watch the slaughter of Palestinians, and Iraqis, and Afghans, and countless others, had THEY all not been dehumanized. What people don’t understand is that THE PEOPLE WE DEHUMANIZE ARE NEVER RE-HUMANIZED and that is why the state of the world is what it is today.  The fact that we don’t, can’t, or won’t see this is white privilege. Not having to care, being able to remain blissfully ignorant, is privilege.

And talking about white privilege is not talking about “class”, though we can see class issues in Keene as well. I guarantee there were either no, or very few working class college students willingly participating in the ‘riot’. They’re either working their way through school, know full well the cost of their education, or are using the gi bill. When you don’t understand the value of a dollar and not only have mommy and daddy to pay for school and a car and an apartment, but also to bail your ass our of jail when you’re an idiot…you’re much more likely to be a drunken idiot. Even though it is a State college, if you’ve been paying attention lately, more and more kids are going to state schools from middle class families out of state, taking seats away from local working class kids.I bet kids who grew up in Keene would be a whole lot less likely to destroy Keene. So, sure there is an element of class (you have to feel entitled to destroy property for the hell of it), but you’re crazy if you can’t see the roll that race plays in places like Keene, and places like Ferguson. You’re crazy if you don’t see white privilege in our society (and in the world). You’re also crazy if you let this become an excuse for the further militarization of police, which won’t hurt these kids, but WILL hurt folks non-violently protesting against oppression.


About soitgoes1984

I live on a small island in the middle of the Pacific ocean in the Hawaiian Kingdom which is currently illegally occupied by the American government. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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