Police department frets unruly undead

Last year’s zombie march resulted in 22 arrests

Police said they plan to prevent an unauthorized “zombie march” from occurring tonight on Main Avenue. But they acknowledged if a critical mass of zombies and ghouls show up, they may have no choice but to allow the procession to proceed.

“We’re trying to prevent this march from occurring,” said police Chief Jim Spratlen. “It’s going to be based on how many people show up.

“If they’re walking in the street, it’s against the law.”

The fifth annual zombie march is scheduled to begin at 11:55 p.m. today at College Drive and Main Avenue, according to online posts.

No one has applied for a special-use permit, and the city has not prepared for a march other than to beef up law enforcement, said Sherri Dugdale, assistant to the city manager.

“By not getting a permit, you force us to react to whatever is happening, and I realize that might be part of the intent, but you’re missing all those pieces for a safe event by not getting a permit,” she said.

Last year’s march attracted about 1,500 people who walked up and down Main Avenue. Police ordered the crowd to disperse, but about 75 people sat down in the middle of the street and refused to leave. Some tried to tip over a car, others threw bottles and trash at police officers.

Police in riot gear used batons and pepper spray to regain control. They made 22 arrests, from failure to disperse to assault on a police officer.

The promotional language this year is nearly identical to previous years: “Zombies, monsters, ghouls, faeries and other assorted Halloween creatures return to the streets of downtown Durango during the Witching Hour of All Hallows Eve (Midnight, Halloween) to reclaim the streets from the magic-less world and create and occupy space in which anything can happen.”

Durango resident Nathan Coe, who has helped promote the event since its inception, said he hopes this year’s march is peaceful, both by police and participants.

“I hope it happens, and that it goes well,” he said during an interview Tuesday.

The event is about spontaneity and “reclaiming” public spaces, he said.

“The utilization of public space is really an important thing for all people in all places to engage in,” Coe said. “I think that’s definitely an appropriate way for the public to re-engage with their surroundings and reclaim a little bit of that from the monotony of our lives.”

Participants typically chant, “Whose streets? Our streets!”

Spratlen said officers will try to keep the march from happening, or at least keep it confined to the sidewalk. But if 1,400 people show up, he would need 700 officers to prevent them from taking to the streets.

Extra police officers will be on duty, he said, including some dressed in tactical gear, which include a helmet, shield and longer batons.

Spratlen encouraged Halloween revelers to follow the law, saying people can negatively affect their lives by acquiring a criminal record.

“Consuming alcohol in excess decreases your inhibitions, and it gets people in trouble,” Spratlen said. “A lot of these people have no intention of trying to get involved in something unlawful until they consume a lot of alcohol.

“We’re trying to promote a great event and have a good time on Halloween,” he said.

shane@durangoherald.com

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