Crackdown in the Castro
New rules may hamper Halloween festivities
October 27, 2003 4:17 PM
Halloween in San Francisco will never be the same.
Centered in the Castro, Oct. 31 is usually a night of carousing and abandon, attracting revelers from all over America. It's a night that brings out San Francisco’s wild side, a night when authorities usually turn a blind eye to public intoxication and other minor lawlessness. Usually.
In the wake of last year’s five stabbings and other assorted violence and chaos, the city is cracking down on one of America’s most famous street parties with a series of draconian new measures that include closed liquor stores, more police officers and more than three miles of police barricades.
This is also the first year that the event is being sponsored by several large corporations. Companies like Wells Fargo, Clear Channel and Anheuser-Bush are contributing to the cost of the event, which includes four entertainment stages. As attendees enter the area through one of the 14 police monitored gates, they will be asked for a voluntary contribution of $3.
According to San Francisco Police Department spokesmen, there will be a record amount of undercover police officers roaming the streets on Friday, ready to give anyone with an open container a ticket up to $90. Anything resembling a weapon, even if it's part of a costume, will be immediately confiscated by the police.
The mayor’s office, Board of Supervisors and the SFPD are working in conjunction to make this Halloween an alcohol-free night. District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty is the driving force behind what police spokesman Dewayne Tully described as “a bit of a crackdown.”
Tully admitted, “It’s obviously wishful thinking to think that nobody is going to be on the streets drinking that night, but we’re going to take every measure possible to control the evening as much as possible.”
"Controlling the evening" also includes calling a halt to the festivities and dispersing any crowds by midnight, an unusual measure for an event that usually carries on until at least two or three o’clock in the morning.
The Castro Muni station will be closed by 8 p.m. to prevent overcrowding, but BART will extend its hours to the East Bay until 1 a.m., all in an effort to take control of what was once a spontaneous event completely unfettered by the authorities.
“I had been planning on going this year, but now, forget it, it’s going to be stupid – and boring,” said Mark Defoe, a senior biology major at SF State. Defoe has gone to the Castro on Halloween for the last three years.
Others were a little more positive about the new measures, but still expressed reservations.
“I think it’s good that they’re making it safer, last year it felt really out of control and ugly, but it's too bad that they couldn’t have found a way to make it safer and still retain the sense of freedom that Halloween night has in San Francisco – I may just skip it this year,” said Zoe Lampard, a Sophomore liberal studies major at SF State.
Robert Raul of SF State’s Queer Alliance said, “Safety wasn’t a big concern of mine last year. OK, five people were stabbed, but that’s only five among thousands – but since I don’t really like drinking in public anyway I think its cool to have no drinking, and the city’s spending money on this anyway, so I think its OK.”
Over 300,000 people are expected to attend the festivities this year.
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