The past few years have seen powerful unrest across the world, from Egypt, to Mexico, to Hong Kong and, of course, our own brothers and sisters in Missouri.
So when reports of rioting at an annual New Hampshire pumpkin festival started this past Saturday night, it’s no surprise that cries of “ARE YOU KIDDING ME” could be heard across the land, leaving us to wonder: who will solve this crisis of White-on-White crime?
How can The Onion even handle this? The Keane #Pumpkinspiceriots sound exactly like they were ripped from the satirical newspaper’s pages. In fact, it’s safe to wager that some of the blogs that routinely aggregate satirical news stories in earnest paused before sharing the nutmeg nuttiness of the weekend. Matt D. Pierce of the LA Times reports of the chaos that seemed far more damning than anything witnessed on West Florissant Avenue:
“Young people chucked beer cans and cups at each other, jumped off roofs, tore down, kicked and smashed road signs, set a large fire and chanted profanity, celebrated on top of a flipped car, took selfies in front of lines of riot police, got the attention of a police helicopter, chanted "U-S-A!", pushed barricades and threw a street sign at police, threw bottles at the police after the police threw tear gas, and left behind a huge mess.”
From the Keene Sentinel (emphasis mine):
“At 3 p.m., hundreds of people had filled a backyard on Winchester Court, where they were setting off fireworks, throwing beer bottles and wrestling in a large patch of mud in the middle of the crowd. Police surrounded the area and attempted to control the crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets.”
Several people walked onto Winchester Street with blood streaming from their heads after being struck by thrown objects, and emergency workers tended to them as they also tried to treat people with alcohol-related injuries.”
It seems that attempting to shut down the rowdy pie fans earlier than expected led to more chaos:
“By 4 p.m., police had barricaded off Winchester Street at the bike path. Many people walked past them, cursing and yelling and making rude gestures in the officers’ direction.
People in the crowd stopped several times to pose for pictures with the Keene police cruisers before continuing to walk down the street. People also posed for selfies with a barricade of police who moved down Winchester Street."
One noble young man, Andrew Cane, stepped up as an organizer among the chaos:
“My friends go to Keene (State College) … I’m trying to keep people in line. No one needs to get hurt. Let’s just have a good protest.”
What remains unclear the world outside of Keene: what in the world were these young hooligans protesting? The mainstreaming of pumpkins? The Starbucksification of the once noble gourd? A shortage of free-range, gluten-free pumpkin ale at the local tap house? The horror of biting in to a Pumpkin Spice Milano cookie (seriously, why do these exist)? What could provoke such rage from these people?
If you were to speak to one of the young protestors who have marched in the streets of Ferguson and Greater St. Louis tirelessly since August 9th, I highly doubt any of them would describe getting “a rush” from going against local law enforcement. Perhaps some of the anarchist White kids who have treated the area like a ‘Protest Disneyland’ may get such a thrill, but the majority of the folks out there understand that, like their global neighbors in the struggle, they are literally fighting for their lives.
Yet, 18-year-old Steven French told The Sentinel how exciting it was to participate in the cinnamon shenanigans: “It's just like a rush. You're revolting from the cops…It's a blast to do things that you're not supposed to do.” (This quote brings Laterian Milton’s infamous “It’s fun to do bad things” quote to mind—Milton, of course, was seven years old at the time he gave that statement.)
French, an outside agitator, was visiting from Haverhill, Massachusetts.
The Sentinel reports that at least 49 people were arrested, which is pretty significant for a town of less than 24,000. No serious injuries were reported, though flying glass bottles and fireworks hurt some attendees.
In perhaps the greatest coincidence in recent history, this very pumpkin festival was mentioned in an episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, in which the comedian railed on the militarization of American police forces. Local law enforcement had requested an armored vehicle for the annual event, citing terrorism concerns—perhaps the terrorists were a little closer to home than they expected.
For all the hashtags and the jokes, we won't see a media assault on the youth who ruined the festival for acting in ways that were not merely inappropriate, illegal and potentially deadly, but bizarre and wrought with the stench of unchecked privilege. These causeless rebels won't be derided as thugs, nor will people wonder why they don't just 'go get a job,' (something that I heard no less than three times while attending protests in St. Louis, and have seen over and over again from Twitter trolls responding to the Missouri unrest.) Unlike the young people who have mobilized in Ferguson for an actual cause, there will likely be few serious ramifications for those who participated in making Keene, New Hampshire the laughingstock of the country, while putting themselves and others at serious risk for injury or death AT A PUMPKIN FESTIVAL. AT AN EVENT THAT IS CENTERED AROUND A GOURD WHICH IS USED TO MAKE PIES AND DELIGHT CHILDREN ON HALLOWEEN. The leaders of the #Pumpkinspiceriots will be laughed at, but not hated. Inconvienced, but not brutalized. Furthermore, they don't even lend themselves to the conversation about overpolicing because the riot police showed up as they were actually rioting.
This may be the most American thing to have ever happened. We need a movement to make October 18th a national observance–Pumpkin Day–a holiday on which we reflect on everything that makes this country what it is: a place where violent White youths are "unruly," and peaceful Black protestors are "rioters."
When you have your next slice of pumpkin pie, or pumpkin ravoli or pumpkin muffin, think of the pumpkins who died in Keene this past weekend–and how mighty nice it must be to have the space to riot for no reason at all.