Congratulations to the Durango Police Department and Chief Jim Spratlen on their handling of Wednesday night’s zombie march. It paid off in an event happily free of serious trouble.
Thanks, too, to the revelers themselves who by and large chose to see the march as an opportunity to have fun and not a chance to cause trouble.
The annual Halloween zombie march – this was the fifth – has become a Durango tradition. And like so much of Halloween, its popularity rests in part on the fact that it is unauthorized and largely unorganized.
There is a strong anti-authoritarian streak in American society. It runs from the tea party groups on the right and the Occupy movement on the left through seemingly pointless expressions of individual liberty such as the zombie march.
Sometimes thumbing your nose at things like a parade permit is part of the fun – as long as it is kept to that. The police have a responsibility to draw the line at violence or destruction of property, but the mere fact that an activity is not sanctioned should not become a problem in itself.
Besides, while chants of “Whose streets? Our streets,” may be intended to be provocative, the idea is not without basis. The streets are public property and the First Amendment does guarantee “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” And nothing excludes assemblies predicated on silliness.
Of course, the emphasis has to be on “peaceably.” But with that understanding, the authorities are wise to cut the zombies a little slack. There are times and places for letting off steam, and there are worse choices than Main Avenue on Halloween.
Thanks all around.