Open forum at WIU over annual block party gone awry
Thu, 08 Dec 2011 03:45:00 GMT —
UPDATED: December 7 at 9:38 p.m.
A panel from Western Illinois University, city officials and students met Wednesday night in an open forum to discuss next year's Wheeler Block Party.The last block party got so out of control, the Macomb police task force stepped in with tear gas to evacuate the nearly five thousand people on scene.About 50 people attended the meeting, of those 15 to 20 were students.A WIU representative said that the meeting was very respectfully handled.The WIU leadership, the Macomb Police and the students each discussed their ideas on how to handle future parties.One idea that was discussed was an alternative party, but students said that even if one was set up there would still be a core group that would hold a party on Wheeler Street.The Wheeler Street Committee which is made up of university officials and the police are reviewing all the feedback from the meeting and will continue to brainstorm to figure out the best option for the future.
If you have an opinion on the Wheeler Block Party's both present and future, post your comments below or on our Facebook page here.
A panel from Western Illinois University, city officials and students will meet Wednesday night to gain feedback and suggestions in reference to the Wheeler Street Block Party in Macomb.
Click here to read a statement from the WIU website.
Macomb police ended the last block party when it got out of control near the WIU campus on April 30. Officers used mace and loud sirens to break up the crowd.
The party which is an annual event, turned violent after visitors began assaulting police and vandalizing areas along Wheeler Street. People in the crowd captured video of the party as it turned bad. Click here to watch video from YouTube. (WARNING: Strong language in video not censored.)
There were an estimated three thousand people in attendance and is was said that most spent the majority of the day consuming alcohol.
The city of Macomb denied a block party permit submitted by Wheeler street party organizers, so the event was not authorized by the city. Police Chief Barker says residents along that portion of Wheeler Street, as well as the organizers of the party, got warnings before the event, asking them to keep the party under control.
The community was polarized following the clash with authorities. Some sided with the city and homeowners affected and others sided with the party participants citing that they should have been left alone.
The open forum Wednesday is open to all campus and community members at 6 p.m. in the WIU University Union Capitol Room.
We spoke to school officials and students earlier in the day to find out how they plan to make next year's party a smoother one.
"My freshman year, it was a lot of fun and people were just having a good time.Last year it was just completely different," said Johnessee, a W.I.U. junior lliving on Wheeler Street.
"It was fun in the beginning and then I thought it got out of control," said Katie Harkness, a W.I.U. senior lliving on Wheeler Street.
"You couldn't move, nobody could be in the streets, it was really crowded and packed. You just couldn't do anything," said Johnessee.
"If anybody's watched or seen any of the Youtube videos that are still out there, you can see stuff being thrown. That's when the soft clothes uniformed officers were taken out of the area and the mobilization task force stepped in," said Campus Security Director Bob Fitzgerald.
School and city officials don't want a repeat of last year. Over the last few months, they've organized several meetings with the different groups involved. Wednesday, they're bringing all groups together to speak at an open forum.
"We're going to do it in a panel style where students are going to have the opportunity to speak as well as the city of Macomb and university officials," said Dr. Jack Thomas."Those are our students and we are concerned about our students. We want to make sure that if the students are going to do this that it's done decently and in order."
Students living on Wheeler Street say next year's block party could go a lot smoother is law enforcement would ease up on the rules.
"Maybe regulate it to where you can't have glass bottles, where you have to have plastic or things in a cup," said Harkness.
"If the street was blocked off, then it would be so much better, because then, you wouldn't have people trying to come down it. And then it would be like a block party," said Johnessee.
A party this big comes with big responsibilities for students living on this street.
"I don't mind it. I know I'll have to clean up the next day, or that day, but I don't mind it," said Harkness.
Do you have an opinion on events like this being held in the future? Do you have a gripe about how the event on April 30 was handled? Make your voice heard tonight and make sure you post your comments below and on our Facebook page here .