N.H. police restore calm after pumpkin festival dissolves into riot

Police arrested at least 49 people as thousands of revelers in Keene, N.H. threw objects at police dressed in riot gear, overturned cars, and climbed on top of roofs, Saturday.

Violent disturbances near Keene State College during an annual pumpkin festival lasted until early Sunday and involved dozens of arrests and injuries, as well as police in riot gear using tear gas to disperse crowds.

Keene State student Ellery Murray told The Boston Globe that she was at a party Saturday that had drawn a large crowd when people started throwing things.

"People were just throwing everything they could find – rocks, skateboards, buckets, pumpkins," she said. "People just got too drunk."

Police from as far away as Laconia, The University of New Hampshire, and Massachusetts managed to regain control of the streets by 1:30 a.m. Sunday, WMUR-TV in Manchester reported.

The parties around the school coincided with the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival, where the community tries to set a world record of the largest number of carved and lighted jack-o-lanterns in one place.

WMUR-TV showed video of a crowd overturning a car, people running from tear gas clouds, street signs being torn down, and fires burning in the streets. Police, who dressed in riot gear and ordered crowds to disperse, also investigated reports of people throwing glass bottles and fireworks, jumping off a roof, and banging on cars.

One group of young people threatened to beat up an elderly man, and another resident heard someone "threatening to kill officers," according to the Keene Police Department log, which shows 235 calls between 2:30 a.m. Friday and 3:30 a.m. Sunday and at least 49 arrests.

Not all were part of the disturbances, but at least 14 on Saturday and early Sunday appeared related to the unruly behavior. Most involved disorderly conduct or alcohol-related offenses.

At least 30 people were injured near the school before evening Saturday, and 20 of them were taken to hospitals, Keene Fire Chief Mark Howard told New England Cable News.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said state and local safety officials worked to defuse what she called "the situation." College officials provided few specifics on the melee but said Keene State students and out-of-town visitors were involved.

College President Anne Huot said in an emailed statement that the festival has been promoted by others "as a destination for destructive and raucous behavior" and the college had tried working with the city and campus to prevent unruly conduct.

"We deplore the actions of those whose only purpose was to cause mayhem," she said, adding that the students involved will be held accountable.

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