Reining in the holiday
City, university brace for Labor Day float
Sandwiched between the party that triggered a “disorderly events” response from Chico police Friday night (Aug. 23) and the potential debauchery associated with the annual Labor Day tube float on the Sacramento River, the city of Chico’s Town and Gown Committee meeting on Monday (Aug. 26) had a bit of an edge to it. The committee, which is made up of representatives from the city, Chico State and Butte College, has already discussed the annual flotilla a couple of times this summer.
The matter was suddenly intensified in the wake of the party on Sixth and Ivy streets—a gathering police responded to at the request of the person hosting it to clear the yard of unwanted party-goers. At least one police officer and an Enterprise-Record reporter, Almendra Carpizo, who was participating in a police ride-along during the students’ first weekend back in town, were struck with beer cans thrown by revelers.
According to a Police Department press release, officers and police volunteers then left the party, and re-approached wearing helmets, at which time they were greeted with more launched cans and bottles.
A fight that broke out on Ivy Street resulted in at least one person being pushed to the ground and beaten. The crowd was ushered away from the prone victim by officers who were preparing to declare the gathering an unlawful assembly. Within about 10 minutes, the crowd disbanded, police say. A majority of the partiers were reportedly cooperative.
“There was a small number of people, who utilized the anonymity of the crowd in order to attack the officers and volunteers with bottles and cans,” the press release said.
The release warns of the department’s “One and Done” policy: “Should one act of violence, one fight or one bottle, can or rock be thrown, at a party, the Disorderly Events ordinance will be enacted to shut the party down.”
And with that background, the Town and Gown Committee looked toward Labor Day. Last year, an estimated 12,000 people took part in the event that was marred by the death of a college student from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
Two years ago, Butte County’s Board of Supervisors approved a local ordinance to enforce an alcohol prohibition following the passage of a state law allowing for such a ban during summer holidays on the stretch of the river where the flotilla takes place. But Glenn County, which also borders the river, failed to follow suit, making those bans unenforceable. Glenn County’s supervisors changed their minds this year, so the ban will be in place.
Chico Police Capt. Lori MacPhail said the upcoming weekend “will be interesting,” and that the prior weekend was a surprise.
“It was a little bit unexpected what went on this weekend,” she said. “It was pretty explosive out there.”
Because of the alcohol ban on Labor Day, McPhail said there’s not been much out-of-town advertising for the event to bring in outsiders; nor has there been much chatter on social-networking websites, which police have been monitoring to try to get a handle on what to expect. She pointed out that, because of budget cuts, there will be no mounted police to patrol the downtown over the weekend as there has been in the past.
“Labor Day has become the most significant special event we have to plan for,” McPhail said.
Taylor Herren, president of Chico State’s Associated Students and a Town and Gown Committee member, said her group has been promoting word of the alcohol ban in hopes of keeping the crowds down.
“We need to discourage those who don’t live here anymore, and keep Labor Day a local event,” she said.
There are a number of campus events planned for the weekend, Herren said, including the Wildcat Challenge on Saturday (Aug. 31) in the university housing area, and the Wildcat Recreation Center will be open all day Monday (Sept. 2), even though it’s a holiday.
“How do we start redefining what Labor Day means?” she asked. “We need to craft more events catered to students, and figure out what the steps are for next year.”
Chico State President Paul Zingg said resources to control such events are limited for the parties involved—Chico State, the city of Chico, Butte College and Butte County.
“We know there are times of the year that are more problematic,” he said. “The beginning of semesters, Labor Day, Halloween—they’ve taken on lives of their own. We need to work together at these times of the year and try to get more bang for the buck.”