Galveston Mardi Gras got pretty wild this weekend . . . at least judging from a series of YouTube videos that captured an on-street clash with police involving beads, barricades and pepper spray.
The Galveston Police Department — which provides security for the island's pre-Lenten bash — reports that officers encountered a group of party-goers who refused to disperse during a routine street sweep of the Stand entertainment district as evening Mardi Gras festivities ended at 1 a.m. on Sunday.
"People started throwing beads back and forth," says one eyewitness. "Then it was aluminum bottles and then trash cans."
Police noticed items being thrown from the crowd, as revelers moved city barricades to stop the attempts to clear the sidewalks and streets. A Galveston Police Department statement notes that officers "utilized their crowd control training" to secure the area. Seven people were arrested, including one who was charged with assault on a peace officer, evading arrest and criminal mischief.
While area police downplay the affair, cell phone footage from the evening portrays a mob scene that Galveston crime blog The Police News calls a full-blown riot. Videos, like the one above, show scores of partiers stacking metal barricades and throwing items at a flank of officers on horseback. YouTube commenters note that police dispersed some type of chemical irritant.
Lieutenant Michael Gray confirms for CultureMap that canisters of pepper spray were used by police during the incident, which occurred along the Strand near 23rd Street. Though he could not offer details on the agency's crowd control efforts, he assured that no serious injuries were reported and the no businesses saw any damage.
Not like the old days
For the past three years, Galveston Mardi Gras has been a ticketed affair with admissions costs ranging from $8 in advance to $17 at the gate. Yaga's Entertainment — which organizes the two-week long celebration — cordons off the city's downtown historic district, similar to the annual Dickens on the Strand event.
Lieutenant Michael Gray confirms that canisters of pepper spray were used by police during the incident.
Restaurant manager Gabriel Garcia witnessed the clash first-hand from Yaga's Cafe (owned by Yaga's Entertainment) at 2314 Strand. While the streets were rather chaotic, he notes that police maintained control of the situation.
"People started throwing beads back and forth. Then it was aluminum bottles and then trash cans," he says.
"There's always a certain mob mentality in large groups like that. But, ultimately, no businesses were broken into and no one was really hurt. It wasn't really anything like that."
Garcia reports that the late night scene was more of a drunken melee than a angry mob.
"At some point, the crowd started shouting 'U-S-A, U-S-A,'" he laughs. "Not sure what that was all about."