The party is still over. At least this is still the mantra of the San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD) for this year’s Mardi Gras, which starts this weekend through Fat Tuesday on Feb. 28.
In 2004, drunken crowds in big numbers threw bottles and rocks at unarmed police causing mass rioting with a record 206 arrests, according to the police department, forcing overloads in emergency rooms with injured students.
The riots caused a massive movement in 2005 with more than 400 police in full riot gear from around the state.
This year, the SLOPD is staging a 350-member force in all modes of transportation.
They said they hope it will be a success similar to last year when “the party is over” campaign began.
“I feel that the community should embrace (the police department’s plan for a safe weekend).” said Kristin Gause, a landscape architecture junior. “They should rope off an area where people can go and have a controlled party. They should designate a street where crowds could go; the city could benefit financially from that.”
According to a Mardi Gras Web site hosted by SLOPD, their goal last year was a “simple assignment” to “stop SLO from being a statewide Mardi Gras weekend destination for thousands of people, and prevent the town from boiling over from a combustible mix of alcohol and crowds over a potential five day party period.”
To some, it is a shame that the party is over.
“I have mixed feelings (about this year). Two years ago I had a blast, but I do recognize a need for force,” David Schwartz, an English junior, said. “I do feel sorry for newer students a bit though, because they won’t be able to experience it.”
The efforts of SLOPD are being mirrored by Cal Poly President Warren Baker. He addressed the issue in an e-mail sent to the student body in early 2005.
“I urge you to heed the city’s call for cessation of public Mardi Gras celebrations in the streets of San Luis Obispo and to encourage others to join with you in continuing the Cal Poly traditions of civility and respect for the law,” he wrote in the e-mail.
Just as in 2005, the police force will continue to enforce triple fines for public safety laws involving public nudity, public urination and applicable municipal code violations. Efforts by SLOPD may be enough for community safety.
“Kids will still go out, but it will be lower numbers that last year,” said Tony Quintiniliani, an English senior. “It seems like the police department is having some effect on students.”
If all goes according to the SLOPD plan, this year will be safe.
“I think it’s sort of sad. I was here two years ago and it was in full swing,” said Ninah Hartley, a biology graduate student. “I don’t think enough people will be around for a problem, so it should be a quiet weekend.”
For more information on this year’s Mardi Gras, visit www.mardigrasslo.com.