A shameful Halloween

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By Steven T. Jones
First of all, let me state my biases: my sweetie is Alix Rosenthal, who is running against Sup. Bevan Dufty, the architect of the city’s approach to Halloween in the Castro last night. But given what I saw and experienced last night, I feel an obligation to share a few observations with Guardian readers.
As you may have heard, there were several shootings that occurred just after the police tried to shut down the event at 10:30, an earlier than usual finish time pushed by Dufty, but a point at which the crowd seemed to be peaking in numbers. Contrary to city claims and some media reports, the police were not searching most people for weapons or alcohol as they entered the event, at least not anyone in our large group during the three times we entered the event from outside. There were certainly a ton of cops out there this year, but most of them were just standing around in groups of a dozen or more, not doing anything. I saw very few officers circulating in the crowd. Two cops on motorcycles who were doing something around 10 were rudely telling people to clear the streets and go onto the sidewalks, where other cops working sidewalk exits told us to go back into the street. That was emblematic of the obvious mismanagement that caused frustrations all night long, including streets that dead-ended and had people walking in circles in frustration.
But the point in the evening that left me feeling profoundly ashamed of this city was at 11 when a team of water trucks and street sweepers rolled in to clear the streets, accomplishing by force what the repeated announcements that “the party is over” failed to do. Why exactly were we hosing down hundreds of thousands of visitors to San Francisco? Do we really want to show an intolerant, authoritarian face to the world just as people are trying to join us in celebrating a holiday that most of us love? Judging from the reactions I saw around me among the basically well-behaved crowd, we have sullied and lowered ourselves as a city by treating people badly and with intolerance. And we spent a ton of money do it, money that could have been put toward managing the event like New Orleans manages Mardi Gras or New York manages New Year’s Eve. I love this city, but today, I’m not proud of it.