Une émeute annoncée ? La « Cedarfest » de East Lansing en avril 2009


La Cedar fest de East Lansing a lieu début avril.

A l’appel d’un groupe Facebook, la Cedarfest 2008 a réuni 4000 personnes et s’est terminée en émeute.

Les autorités anticipent les troubles éventuels de 2009 par une nouvelle législation anti-émeutes


East Lansing Preparing For March Madness

March 18, 2009

It’s that time of year again: warmer weather combined with March madness.

Two ingredients that in the past have been a recipe for destruction in East Lansing as celebrations quickly turn ugly.

Stephanie Kolp shows us what the city is doing to change that outcome this year.

It happened in 2005 when MSU’s basketball team went to the Final Four, and it happened last year with Cedar Fest.

They started out as parties, but turned into riots.

Both caused lengthy police investigations and put students on trial.

Tom Yeadon, City Attorney: « During the last set of trials, we had a number of people complain that they didn’t know that their conduct would land them in jail. »

So the city is trying to make it clear.

Proposed changes to the city’s riot ordinance spell out every act that could land rioters in jail.

It lists things like throwing bottles, indecent exposure, and taunting police.

Tom Yeadon, City Attorney: « Quite frankly, most of it’s common sense. »

Common sense or not, City Attorney Tom Yeadon says the current ordinance isn’t as specific.

Police hope changing the language will send a strong message to keep future parties from getting out of hand.

East Lansing Police: « Hopefully everybody reads the ordinance and educates everyone else on the issue. »

And if another riot does happen, those changes will make it easier to prosecute the people involved.

Tom Yeadon, City Attorney: « It should let the jurors know when people come in and claim that that wasn’t their intent, now the jurors should know that yes, that is your intent because it was spelled out for you in advance. »

A tough message the city hopes to send as March madness rolls around once again.

The new proposal is getting a mixed reaction from students.

Some worry the city is taking the ordinance too far, while others say stricter rules are needed.

Student: « It seems like a good idea, but sometimes students want to demonstrate and sometimes peaceful demonstrations go wrong. »

Student: « It’s one thing if you want to get organized and have a protest against something, but to just get together to get drunk in public and throw beer bottles, that’s just unacceptable behavior. »

City drafts new law to define crimes in riots

By DAWN PARKER • Staff Writer • March 15, 2009 • From Towne Courier

EAST LANSING — It’s like taking a law that says don’t drive too fast, East Lansing Police Chief Tom Wibert said, and changing it to say, « Speed Limit 35 ».

The city council an the police department are attempting to tighten language in the law and focus in on behaviors such as throwing objects or taunting police.

That need became clear in the wake of last April’s revival of Cedar Fest, which involved 4,000 party-goers at Cedar Village and resulted in numerous arrests.

As it is now written, the law defines a rioter as someone who « Assemble(s) or act(s) in concert with four or more other persons for the purpose of engaging in conduct constituting the crime of riot, or be present at any assembly that either has or develops such a purpose and remain thereat with intent to advance such purpose. »

« It leaves a lot of room for interpretation, » Wibert said.

New categories

The revisions, as written by city attorney Tom Yeadon, add a number of new categories. They include, Wibert said, throwing objects, discharging fire extinguishers, mooning people and wearing a gas mask to avoid the effects of tear gas.

Many of the newly-spelled out behaviors are specific to the context of riot situations, Wibert said.

« We want to name them so people know the conduct we are looking for when we’re charging for riot offenses, » he added.

For example, outside of a riot situation, anyone can taunt an officer any time they like.

« But in the context of a riot, if you’re chanting, ‘We want tear gas’, you are furthering the purpose of a riot, » Wibert noted. That happened during Cedar Fest.

« We’re not really changing the law – we’re just clarifying it, » Wibert said.

Yeadon and Wibert have taken a 20-minute highlights video from Cedar Fest that shows behaviors exhibited in the ordinance to numerous group meetings.

Those meetings include the Association of Neighborhood Presidents, the University Student Commission, the Residence Hall Association, the Celebrations Committee, Spartans Against Drunk Driving and the Community Relations Commission.

There has already been a lot of student support for this ordinance, Wibert said.

The video also got an airing at the March 10 council work session. East Lansing Mayor Victor Loomis said he had seen the video at other meetings, but that it was the first time the council watched it as a whole.

The questions put by council members to Yeadon, Loomis said, were about « making sure the changes were understood, along with the reasons behind the changes. »

No members of the public spoke concerning the ordinance.

Council approves riot ordinance

By Jeff Kanan

The State News

Published: March 18, 2009

Hurling beer cans at police and similar actions during a riot have now been defined as prosecutable acts after the East Lansing City Council on Tuesday night approved an ordinance that clarifies riot conduct.

The act doesn’t change any current laws but was drafted as a way to better define what students can and cannot legally do at a riot, said Assistant City Attorney Tom Yeadon, one of the writers of the ordinance.

Prosecutable actions include obstructing police, shooting off fire extinguishers, exposing body parts and failing to leave a public street or sidewalk after police have ordered rioters to do so.

Drafters said the measure has been well-received by students, and many students said having more knowledge about before the start of an assembly about what might get them arrested could stop a riot from breaking out in the first place.

“If they know exactly what the punishments would be, it would be helpful,” packaging sophomore Kelsey Johnson said. “It could possibly even deter them.”

Other students, like mathematics junior Ryan McBride, said by defining illegal actions, the ordinance could benefit nonparticipants who happen to be at the scene of a riot.

“It would be nice in that people who are just bystanders wouldn’t necessarily be prosecuted,” McBride said.

The Interfraternity Council and the Residence Halls Association are among student organizations that have shown support for the measure.

Some East Lansing residents, however, said city officials should remain open to other strategies before drafting the ordinance.

Erick Williams, a city resident, cited tactics employed the police department of Champaign-Urbana, Ill., in which city officials, police officers and students help plan celebrations to make sure a crowd is organized.

“Very few people get arrested and hurt there,” Williams said. “They’ve discovered an understanding for crowd behavior.”

East Lansing police Chief Tom Wibert said during the Tuesday meeting his department uses several tactics similar to those used by the Illinois department.

Rent ordinance

In other business, Council deferred voting on an ordinance that, under certain conditions, would make it easier for house owners to rent out their homes while the property is for sale. The vote is now scheduled for April 7.

The proposed ordinance seeks to aid home owners who face a “rigorous process to rent,” said Howard Asch, director of code enforcement and neighborhood conservation for East Lansing.

Asch said a possible concern could be that many houses don’t meet the criteria required by the ordinance, which states that the house must be being sold at a price at least 5 percent less than its assessed value.

The city has identified 15 houses on the market that meet the criteria, and more than half don’t comply, Asch said.

Published on Wednesday, March 18, 2009

East Lansing changes riot ordinance to include acts such as shooting off fire extinguishers

Wednesday, March 18

East Lansing authorities have sought to clarify the city ordinance against rioting.


East Lansing authorities have sought to clarify the city ordinance against rioting.

Officials say the city council’s action Tuesday night didn’t change current laws but better defines what people can and can’t do at a riot.

The State News reports that hurling beer cans at police is now a prosecutable act. Other prosecutable acts include obstructing police, shooting off fire extinguishers and failing to leave a street after police order rioters to do so.

Existing law in part defines a rioter as someone who assembles or acts « in concert with four or more other persons for the purpose of engaging in conduct constituting the crime of riot. »

Police last year used tear gas to break up bottle-throwing rioters near Michigan State University attending the Cedar Fest party.

Erick Williams: E. Lansing anti-riot measure is flawed

March 8, 2009 • From Lansing State Journal

The East Lansing City Council is debating an ordinance that expands punishment for people in riots. The new ordinance is so broad that it even criminalizes bystanders who shout

The ordinance is an attempt to punish the people least responsible for riot activity. Experts have studied crowd behavior for more than 100 years, and we know that members of drunken mobs do not think. Punishing people who are temporarily insane is a useless gesture. The proposed ordinance will not stop riots; only advance work can do that.

There are plenty of good examples of intelligent crowd control that East Lansing can draw from. Sports hooliganism was a major problem in England. It is much less of a problem now because police and sports officials have become more intelligent. One lesson they learned early was not to dress cops in riot gear and have them charge at hooligans. A police charge, to a hard-core hooligan, is a provocation. It’s just another game. News of running street battles with the cops will cause more hooligans to come to town next time.

Kris Fitzpatrick is another example. She is a campus cop at the University of Illinois who has developed techniques that really work. She described them in a 2005 article called, « Preparation and Response to Celebratory Violence, » which is available on the Internet.

Illinois has a periodic street event, much like East Lansing‘s Cedarfest. The event used to be a notorious riot, but with the work of Kris Fitzpatrick and others in Champaign-Urbana, the event has been transformed. Crowds of 15,000 assemble. There is plenty of drinking and celebrating, but no battles with the police. Injuries and arrests are rare.

Fitzpatrick says, wisely, that the number of arrests you make is a sign that your crowd control is not working. That attitude is exactly the opposite of the official thinking in East Lansing, where the city wants to make it easier to arrest more people.

Some of Fitzpatrick’s techniques are disarming. For example, she worked with the state alcohol commission to ban the sale of bottled alcohol in town on the day of the celebration. Bars and liquor stores could sell alcohol, but only in plastic cups. As a result, police officers didn’t get hit with beer bottles.

To prevent students from climbing light poles, the police coated the poles with grease.

Some of Fitzpatrick’s tactics reflect a change of attitude from punitive to celebratory. The police bought a supply of beach balls. When the crowd looked aimless – which is often a prelude to violence – the police threw beach balls into the crowd, which gave people something to play with and diverted their attention.

East Lansing can be more successful in coping with street riots. All it will take is advance planning and a retreat from the punitive mind-set. East Lansing‘s riot ordinance is wrong-headed. It should be rethought.

L’émeute de 2008


Cedar Fest violence declared a riot

6 avril 2008

EAST LANSING – East Lansing Police Chief Tom Wibert said that there was no getting around the use of tear gas Sunday morning to control a violent crowd at the Cedar Village apartments.

« I don’t know what we could have done different to avoid it. When 4,000 people suddenly decide that they want to take the streets, it’s pretty hard for 50 police officers to stop them, » he said during a press conference at East Lansing City Hall this morning.

Police are calling violence that erupted at Cedar Fest overnight a riot.

Wibert said suspects involved in the riot could face expulsion, prison time and fines. Thousands of young people attended a party at the off-campus apartment complex.

The mayor and some council members also attended the press conference.

“The men and women of ELPD and the other law enforcement agencies that assisted exercised restraint and excellent judgment in response to last night’s events,” said Mayor Victor Loomis. “It is important to note that they, together, kept the events from last night and this morning from becoming more tragic.”

Officials said the suspects will be arraigned Monday. A total of 80 officers responded to the scene, according to a release from the City of East Lansing. The agencies involved included East Lansing police, Michigan State University police, Ingham County Sheriff’s office, Lansing police, and Michigan State police.

« A few individuals are responsible for what occurred last night and we will hold them accountable, » Wibert said in the release. « To paint their actions with a broad brush covering all MSU students is wrong. We know that a large percentage of the crowd had no affiliation with the university. At most, the crowd was no more than 4,000 people. With a student population of approximately 45,000 it is obvious that well over 90 percent of MSU students do not participate in riots and were not present last night. I graduated from MSU and I am not ashamed for what happened. I’m proud that the vast majority of my fellow Spartans had something better to do. »


Facebook Cedar Fest Riot 2008 – “We Want Tear Gas!!”

On April 6th 2008, a gathering of 4000 people participated in the Cedar Fest street party. This was organized through a page that was created on the social networking site Facebook that promoted the event. The word of this party, which had been banned back in the late 90’s due to excessive property damage from rioters, spread like wild fire. For those that attended, this was a night of drunken revelry and the chance to be part of a small riot, just to say “I was there and got to see it for myself.”

What could be a more perfect example of viral social network marketing in full effect?

See the video of the Facebook Cedar Fest Riot along with a number of other videos that have been posted by the people who where there, basically creating a mini-documentary of how the night unfolded. Also, notice the ubiquitous use of everyone recording the moment for themselves via their cell phones that will no doubt be shared with their friends and family through Youtube and other social networking sites.

Below, is a brief overview of the history of Cedar Fest and the events that took place this past weekend. Keep in mind that before the rise of the Internet and especially, sites such as Facebook and Myspace, imagine how hard it would have been for a crowd this large to gather in one pre-determined place as is demonstrated in the link above?

Cedar Fest was an infamous gathering in the 1980’s in an apartment complex called Cedar Village. This complex is located just south of the Michigan State University Campus. The events, in the fall and spring, often attracted big crowds which eventually led to thousands of dollars in damage and complaints of the excessive use of tear gas.

Cedar Fest was shut down by a court order and banned by the East Lansing City Council. However, since 1997 there have been several new riots in the Cedar Village area and downtown East Lansing, but under new laws, police have moved in quickly to quell them.

At the onset of the gathering, the crowd was peaceful. The police officers allowed the people to enjoy the evening and only intervened to arrest or ticket those who were heavily intoxicated. As the night wore on, the crowd began to behave violently, throwing beer bottles at officers, tearing up street signs, setting dumpster fires and chanting “We want tear gas.” After being hit with bottles, cans, and various other debris police ordered the crowd to disperse.

The East Lansing Police Department began monitoring a Facebook page created specifically for the event along with the Facebook account holder who planned the Cedar Fest street party. East Lansing Police Public Information Officer Kym Johnson stated. “We’re going after anyone who had any part of getting this party started. We are going to do our best to prosecute those individuals who started this whole resurrection of this Cedar Fest all the way to the last person we arrest tonight and tomorrow.”

Chief Tom Wibert said police were not sure what to expect. “This is the first time we have dealt with something organized on the Internet,” Wibert said. Police made a total of 52 arrests, many of them Michigan State University students. “I don’t know what we could have done different to avoid it. When 4,000 people suddenly decide that they want to take the streets, it’s pretty hard for 50 police officers to stop them,” he said during a press conference at East Lansing City Hall.

Right now, consider this: In the realization that even though the Cedar Fest street party turned into a riot, the fact that such a large group of people chose to act in a pre-defined manner based off an internet site is amazing. What should be sloshing around in our minds is all the different angles that this prime example can be turned into profit.

For those of us who are able to capitalize on the loyalty that these social networking sites generate. We will prosper many times over in terms of revenue and the amount of link power that is the end result of creating a high traffic site that is affiliated with these networks. Imagine how this can be utilized for a client’s brand recognition if they are successfully associated with social networking sites that have the loyalty of literally millions of people.

What if through expert marketing, this resource of people could be tapped on demand, in promotion of new product or service? The point that drives this whole ordeal to heart is this. With a clear call to action, the sheer numbers of people that can be moved to do something in a pre-determined way by a single post on something like Facebook or Myspace is absolutely incredible.

Yet, on the opposing side, one has to accomplish this delicate task without having the users feel like they were manipulated for a profit, such as the nefarious practice of capturing the private information of users, only to be sold to the highest bidder and on and on and on.

Everyone is well aware how Facebook lost a large amount of their credibility regarding privacy when they began offering targeted ads to people in a user’s network, notifying them of when their friend purchased a specific item. I’m not necessarily stating that targeted ads are bad but this obviously has to be judged in the context that they are used.

These practices have to be disclosed in such a way that a user knows exactly what they are getting into without having it sprung upon them. When a large group of users feel violated as a result of finding out that their private information has become exposed to everyone by a trusted source, that creates huge problems and Facebook was at the splitting edge of alienating their user base. See here for the Facebook Beacon debacle.

Therefore, a strategy for monetizing this incredible resource has to strike a fine but crystal clear balance. Figuring out a legitimate way of integrating large swaths of users into a well defined marketing campaign… and from there doing so in such a fashion that users will act of their own volition and make the choice to participate based off of their own interest. I’m definitely curious about the related topics this subject stirs up and I would like to hear comments from what others think about social network marketing.

Erik Lignell

Internet Marketing Specialist


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