Keeping the peace is a central function of law enforcement, one that the Durango Police Department clearly values. While a peaceful zombie march sounds like an oxymoron, the now-annual Halloween event came off this year without an arrest and, apparently, with only one untoward event. Given the circumstances, that is no small accomplishment.
Halloween saw as many as 2,000 revelers come together on Main Avenue near midnight for the Zombie March – an unofficial, loosely organized event that effectively takes over the street for a couple of hours to no real purpose save fun. The typically youthful participants were in all manner of costume, most had probably been celebrating in downtown bars and, presumably, a number of them were in altered states of consciousness for other reasons.
A band set up amid the crowd, and a party broke out. Marchers chanted their unofficial slogan: “Whose streets? Our streets!”
Situations such as that can easily get out of hand. Two years ago, a similar march led to 22 arrests.
But officials seem to have decided that if the zombies want to assert their ownership of a couple of blocks of Main for a few late-night hours once a year it is no big deal. And they are right to think so. Absent violence, why not let them march?
The alternative would be what? The cops could arrest a few hundred people for what amounts to jaywalking. Or they could get out their nightsticks and try to clear the street – and risk shoving what by then might be a riot into nearby residential neighborhoods. What good would that do?
As a Durango police captain told the Herald, “We kind of wait and see what the temperament of the crowd is. We don’t want to push them into a confrontation with police.”
That is exactly the right approach. Parades and marches are held for all kinds of reasons, and simple enjoyment certainly can be one of them. Then too, there is nothing in the First Amendment that says “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” does not apply at night or to those dressed up for Halloween.
As a practical matter, the DPD’s approach is also pragmatic and workable. Without an immediate reason, such as ending or preventing violence, a more confrontational approach would put marchers, cops and property at risk.
The one act of destruction associated with the Zombie March was a Main Avenue shop’s broken window and the theft of couple of items. But what exactly happened there is unclear. The store owner described it as a smash-and-grab, saying a full beer can had been thrown through the window after which someone reached in a took some items.
Other observers disconnect the events. There is anecdotal evidence that the window was broken by accident in a scuffle between zombies, while the theft was simple opportunism. It only adds to the night’s color that what was taken was a Chewbacca mask and an Elvis Presley Day of the Dead figurine.
Nothing justifies that theft or breaking the window – even if was an accident the perpetrators should have fessed up the next day with their checkbooks. But the fact is windows get broken fairly often and, as crimes go, this is small potatoes.
The zombies share the credit for the peaceful event. A DPD spokesman said they have become more respectful. But that, too, could be a response to the cops’ approach. Attitudes displayed by zombies in years past may be defused by knowing that if they keep it peaceful their march can go off as planned.
Overall, it was a good Zombie March.