Mifflin Street Block Party – University of Wisconsin
The Mifflin Street Block Party is an annual celebration held on Mifflin Street in Madison, Wisconsin on the first Saturday of May. The Mifflin Block Party is scheduled for April 30th. It is one of two large parties held in Madison, the other being theHalloween party on State Street. In 2005, the block party attracted around 20,000 participants. The party features widespread consumption of alcoholic beverages, as well as local and out-of-state musical acts playing on house porches, balconies and backyard stages.
The Mifflin Street Block Party began in 1969 as a street protest, which involved dancing in protest against the Vietnam War. Its original date, May 3, was set to coincide with the one year anniversary of the French student rebellion. Anti-war sentiments had accelerated in Madison since the 1967 Dow Chemical protest in which thousands of students occupied, and were violently expelled from, Ingraham Hall. The original event arose as part of a continuing conflict between students and police in the “Miffland” area, centered on Mifflin Street. Police refused to allow permission for the street dance and when they entered the area in response to a noise complaint, a confrontation ensued that lasted three nights and spread into the surrounding student areas. Students threw stones at the police and constructed barricades to defend themselves. The police responded with tear gas andbilly clubs. At the end, 70 people were injured and more than 100 arrested, including future and current mayor, Paul Soglin.
The event continued annually for the duration of the war, even though the traumatic effects of the nearby Sterling Hall bombinghad a dampening effect on Madison anti-war efforts. In an attempt to control the event, the city created “Mifflin on the Mall” in 1979 with music and concessions on State Street Mall. By 1982, however, students had once again taken to Mifflin Street.Under sponsorship from the Mifflin Co-Op, the block party was often used as a community fundraiser for various political or social causes. The co-op dropped its greater involvement in 1991 after the city requested that organizers keep alcohol within fenced-in beer gardens.
By 1990, police had decided to not have any officers patrol the event and removed any official presence from the party. Despite crowds in excess of 10,000 no major problems occurred until a riot in 1996. Following this event, the city and police took more control in planning. They now effectively dictate the terms of the party, spending in excess of $80,000 on policing.
In 2011 the city agreed to allow open alcoholic beverages in the street for individuals of legal drinking age if they have a wristband. In previous years the police had noted that their most difficult areas to control were backyards, so this change in rules is an attempt to draw people into the streets and allow greater contol by police officers. Also new to the event in 2011, The Majestic Theater, a local music venue, officially sponsored and hosted the event attempting to a put greater emphasis on music. Although full details are yet to be released, MPD officers reported the crowd size, and the number of very intoxicated people was far greater in 2011 than recent Mifflin Street Block Parties due to the change in open intoxicants rules. Preliminary numbers released showed 160 people were arrested, two people were stabbed, and multiple police officers were injured during the 2011 event.