GALVESTON — Police officers launched canisters of pepper spray into a crowd of Mardi Gras revelers early Sunday morning as they cleared the streets at the end of the night’s celebrations.

Police chief Henry Porretto said his officers made the choice to use the gas after a small number of people attempted to block the street with metal barriers and began to throw bottles and rocks at the officers attempting to remove the obstruction.

“A group of people that were doing illegal things, took the barricades and tried to barricade the street,” Porretto said.

“As those officers advanced to the barricades, they started taking bottle fire. They were hurling bottles in a manner that was dangerous.”

Nineteen people were arrested during the police’s sweep of The Strand. Porretto called it a sour note at the end of a two-day stretch that only featured eight other Mardi Gras-related arrests.

Around 11 p.m. Saturday evening, police began making preparations to clear the large crowd that had gathered on The Strand.

About an hour later, the police began announcing that the Mardi Gras gates would be closed and stopped all new entries at 12:15 a.m.

At that time, a large line of people were still waiting to enter at the 25th Street gate, but Porretto said the police did not encounter any problems with the crowd that was denied entry.

Around 12:40 a.m., a group of Galveston and University of Texas Medical Branch police officers began lining up at 21st Street and directing pedestrians to exits further west down The Strand.

Porretto said when the police line reached the intersection of The Strand and 22nd Street, a group of people had moved metal from along the side of the street to its center and refused to continue down The Strand. When officers were sent to move the barriers, Porretto said they were assaulted with bottles and rocks.

“They were being attacked — absolutely,” Porretto said of his officers. “Once they were assaulted, once our police force started taking fire from bottles and rocks and projectiles, we have no alternative other than to respond to that resistance.”

Officers launched two canisters of oleoresin capsicum — commonly known as pepper spray — into the crowd. The canisters disperse a visible gas when they are opened.

After the canisters were launched, the police continued their sweep of The Strand without further resistance, Porretto said.

According to a media release from the department, one man was arrested “after he was observed to be a main agitator of the disturbance.”

The man, Noe Andrade, was charged with resisting arrest and riot participation. Police called Andrade a known gang member.

Porretto said the department would consider seeking more serious charges against him, based on his participation in the night’s events.

Though the promoter’s contract allows music to be played on The Strand until 1 a.m., Porretto said the police chose to begin clearing the street early after considering the size of the crowd that had gathered.

“The commander went to (Mardi Gras promoter Mike Dean) and said it’s our recommendation that we stop charging and don’t let anybody else in,” Porretto said. “Mr. Dean abided by that request.”

Porretto said he believed vendors on The Strand were still selling alcohol after the gates closed and as the police were preparing to clear the street. He said in planning for the event, officials did not consider an earlier end to alcohol sales.

Dean, the owner of Yaga’s Entertainment, the promoter of Mardi Gras, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Saturday’s arrest was similar to what occurred on the second Saturday of Mardi Gras last year. Seven people were arrested during that incident.

Despite more people being taken into custody this year, Porretto said he felt the situation was more under control and more quickly contained. No property damage or injuries were reported following the sweep.

City officials plan to meet later this week to discuss what issues might have to be resolved during future events. Porretto said he will discuss the possibility of using a different type of barrier next year.

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com.

(46) comments

Terry Moore

Heard sirens all day and night long as I stayed holed up in my house Saturday and I live west of 61st! When will Galveston ever learn that alcohol, rowdy crowds in a party atmosphere is asking for it!

Island Lover

2 PM?

Rich Gray

Tear Gas? Did it really have to come to this?
I have to wonder just how many good people had to suffer the effects of the chemical just by being at home in their downtown loft apartments?

Centerpointe Moderator

I'm assuming that means 2 a.m.

Andy Aycoth

What is next ,rubber bullets , police dogs and night sticks ? Reminds me of Russia except would use real bullets and fired at crowds.

J. Shaffer

I have to wonder about the use of tear gas on Mardi Gras crowds. Were they being destructive or did the police just want them to leave?

I've been to many a Mardi Gras celebration over the years; many cities run police cars down the street along with walking officers on the sidewalks, forming a phalanx to force people out peacefully.

Using force, like tear gas, seems excessive. Who wants to go to a party that ends THAT way?

Carlos Ponce

Drunk people, those high on hallucinogens or just high on the occasion would not budge presented with a "phalanx" of police and thus require the police to use their batons or a physical confrontation. If they were in their right minds they would have dispersed with the mere presence of the boys in blue, followed with bullhorns, sirens and all other peaceful means. The teargas will wear off, they will live. I salute the police and their actions. They are there to "Protect and Serve". Sometimes you have to protect people from themselves.

Chris Gimenez

GPD has never been known for having the brightest bunch of badges. They'd rather crack heads than understand how to police crowds from departments with experience in Mardi Gras crowds like New Orleans.

vic krc
Victor Krc

I wasn't there at the time and it doesn't appear that any of the posters to this blog were there either.

That said, I do not believe that police should use excessive force unless warranted and I for one certainly do not have enough information to do any second - guessing in this instance.

Island Bred

Waiting for the statement. Hope it's a damn good one...............tear gas clearing the strand???? REally???? I'm all for officers doing what they need to do but don't these folks pay to get on the strand??? I remember a lobby of teargas on a vet during an occupy movement. I believe that hasn't gone to court yet so truthfully -it's very possible that not all will be ok in all circumstances. The metal projectile is a tough contender with a skull.

JD Arnold

So, the drunken skalawags become the innocent victims.

vic krc
Victor Krc

Exactly. The police in most instances are the ones that are criticized before all the facts are in.

It doesn't seem to occur to some folks that just maybe the drunk and disorderly bear some responsibility for the situation, ya think?

Most of the other drunks cleared out when told, but not the lot that were tear gassed.

Perhaps the Galveston Mardi Gras doesn't attract the higher class or more experienced or educated drunks that attend the New Orleans Mardi Gras. [smile]

I was exposed to tear gas when I was in basic training with the army, as were thousands of others. I believe that it was, and still is, part of training for all branches of the military. While unpleasant, no one would consider cruel or unusual punishment.

Andy Aycoth

I got the solution, don't sell alcohol and you will have fewer problems.
You will have fewer people attend and easier to control the crowds.
City has a responsibility here too.

Andy Aycoth

The facts and content of story were re-written which somewhat change what I think.
Still do not think you should use tear gas when you could have innocent women and children mixed in the crowd . If it were all thugs and gang members then have at it.

Carlos Ponce

Its 12:53 a.m Where are your children? Alvinbr62 if children were there they would be in violation of curfew laws. Women are a different issue.

Allen Flores

The city gets none of the money from Mardi Gras because of an unintelligent city manager. Mardi Gras was best when it was a free festival that had parades around 7pm, then the local businesses made a little money and people had balls and parties elsewhere. Now Mardi Gras promoters encourage drunkiness with whiskey and beer booths everywhere. The parades and outdoor bands should end at 10pm and it would all be avoided. There are teens, gang members and near riots every year. The problem is easily avoided if the city and police would push to have a real Mardi Gras, not the late night concerts and anarchy that it has become. It will happen again next year. Who is placing the police in this bad situation every year? The Strand businesses hate it. The city gets no money from the gate fees, sponsors, beer sales, whiskey booths or concessions. The city council should end the concerts and wind down the parades after 10pm.

npappous
Norman Pappous

The city gets the funds the winning bid made when they made an offer to host Mardis Gras. It is guaranteed money.

The city should only benefit from business if it assumes business risks. The city does not do that and that is not what, I believe, taxpayers want their taxes used for.

John Ferguson
John Wayne Ferguson

Norman is correct. The city was paid $100,000 this year by the promoter, as per the Mardi Gras agreement signed in 2010.

jeremy moore

As someone who has served as a peace officer I would have to commend the officers on duty on handling this situation. From where I sit the most important words were "with no injuries". If it takes a little teargas to get the unruly to move then so be it. If you want to be a drunkard and fight authority then be ready to pay the price. I live on the east end and can hear the sounds of the strand from my living room. It was nice to sit on my porch while grilling last night and listen to the music coming from Mardi Gras. It is a shame it had to end the way did, but it did have to end.

Robert Young

I -hop gift certificates for $15 good only until 5 am.. throw that at a drunk! cheaper than tear gas and good for business and keeps the jails manageable. Those hard heads would just rush on over..sumptin free

Jeffs
Jeff Smith

Everyone knows the crowd dynamics change drastically after midnight. While there are simple revelers, the amount of thugs and fights increase. If you gate and charge, the public revolts. If you leave it open and thugs come, people get robbed and hurt while the police get blamed for not protecting them in an unsecured area. How is leaving drunks and thugs breaking the rules/law , a responsible action for Strand businesses and residents? I obviously support the GPD. They just can't win anyway they clear the district. There are complaints every year. It's the hand they're dealt.

Allen Flores

The promoter throws a drunkfest and rakes in all of the money, then the police become the topic of discussion on using poor judgement? The source of the problem is the outdoor bands and riff raff gang members. Have the parades in the daytime at 5pm, have the police chief recommend no outdoor music or parades after 9pm. The thugs won't show. Then have the city kill all of the beer booths and allow the local businesses to have a normal weekend. It's simple as long as the city council, mayor and city manager stops allowing the stupid contract that makes no financial sense.

npappous
Norman Pappous

The police once again did a professional job and should be commended!

Chris Gimenez

I'm no "LE professional" but once again it seems like they were sitting on the perimeters until it came time to clear the streets thereby allowing the hoodlums to gang up and act up. When the badges are in the midst of the crowds the whole time it stands to reason there is less of an opportunity for the lowlife elements to commandeer the barricades and group up. Where are the mounted officers? Where are the towers they use during the Bike Rally to see the problems before they get out of hand?

Island Bred

Didn't this say "tear gas" earlier" I just hate when GDN does this. No wonder I quit paying attention................ good grief.

John Ferguson
John Wayne Ferguson

Yes it did. We changed the headline to more specific description once we were able to confirm what type of gas was used by the police.

Island Bred

Channel 11 is saying canisters. If it was canisters - lobbed into the crowd - that was uncalled for unless it was on the ground. Period. It's Mardi Gras - not some civil unrest like the Ukraine......... this is silly and I do think there will be a video that comes up somewhere. Right after the law suits get started. Galveston is just so much better than this. Wonder how many canisters were sent flying into crowds in NO................ seems you might be safer at the free event. Amazing.

Leonce Thierry

Surely, someone will post a YouTube video like last year.

Allen Flores

The promoter basically gets $400,000 in hotel tax money to pay for the event along with $350,000 free marketing by the city's park board. The promoter gets free security that probably costs the taxpayers $150,000, and the promoter pays back only $100,000 of the money benefit. That's just a flagrant lack of fiduciary duty by the city council, mayor, etc. Everybody has been made a fool of. With all of the financial experts on the city council, why would the council and city management keep cutting such a bad deal with no transparency, accountability or percentage of the precedes? Why encourage beer booths, drunks, and more false propaganda? City management should be questioned and council should make certain that the proper steps are taken to end the outdoor part at dusk so our policemen are no longer placed in jeopardy. The bs about the fee keeping bad people out of the area is laughable and council buys it every year. wow!

npappous
Norman Pappous

WOW! Wrong on every relevant point!

That's gotta be a record...

Allen Flores

Nobody is forcing the city to accept a guaranteed $100,000 when the $800,000 in public funds and services are used to guaranty the promoter millions. The $100,000 the city gets is not worth the $500,000 in negative publicity that Galveston gets every year. The city doesn't need to make Mardi Gras a late events with bands. The balls and parades are just fine. Take the late night concerts to Moody Gardens and force the promoter to pay for rent, security, advertising without city subsidies. Smarter cities would NOT continue such a lousy contract because somebody guarantees them $100,000 in exchange for millions. The park board is capable of selling a few food booths, coordinating daytime parades, and selling sponsorships. The city could keep about $400,000 in just booths and sponsorships. That's smarter than getting $100,000 to pimp out the city to late night gangsters. That's all the citizens need. The gangbangers will stop coming and the savings to the city will exceed the poultry $100,000. The city could save about $450,000 in expenses and gain about $400,000 in revenue with very little work and end the promoter contract. The non-transparent contract smells and it's interesting that it keeps getting extended with such a lopsided financial deal that ends in violence yearly.

Steve Fouga

In Katy this weekend visiting family...

It'll all be cleaned up by the time I get back.

[cool]

Allen Flores

Why is the police chief put on the hot seat? It's the promoter's fault. There is no needs for the outdoor bands and beer booths that hurt the local businesses anyway. The promoter needs to go because he is the source of the problem, not the police. The city manager signed a dumb deal that creates an atmosphere of lewd behavior for a measly $100,000. The city spends several hundred thousand and gets none of the revenues. Very dumb of the city manager. Galveston is smeared for all of this violence while city management and council keep renewing a contract that causes the madness and goes late night. Wakeup city council and end the Mardi Gras promoters who are just after money at the expense of our police and reputation. Scale Mardi Gras way back and end the outdoor activities and beer sales at 8pm for one year. A street sweep is not needed if there are no outside beer booths or outside bands on The Strand after 9pm. Mike Dean as promoter is a crime filled Mardi Gras with drunks. End the contract and let the Park Board handle a small day time Mardi Gras!

CJ Kirwer

First, hats off to the Krewes that bring the real Mardi Gras to Galveston Island. Thank you. As for that downtown "pay to play" festival? What is that? City Officials need to rethink that whole concept.. It puts the GPD in a unenviable bind. It's got us outstanding negative publicity two years in a row now and bears no resemblance to any Mardi Gras I've seen in two other states and three countries.

frank furleigh

There will always be those in a crowd who are immature, irresponsible and unlawful - it's just the way it is. To slam the entire event due to a few idiots being idiots is immature and irresponsible. Our family was there all week, ages 6 - 60 and the atmosphere and festivities were outstanding.
My suggestion is that all vendors agree to cease all sales of alcohol at 10:00 - 10:30 pm sharp - no exceptions. The benefit to this is less vehicular incidents, better crowd control, and a much more organized departure from the area.
The peace officers acted professionally and afforded all parties respectful and decent behavior. Only until after they were completely ignored, mocked and antagonized did it turn to force. If what you want is free-range and free-for-all partying, then go somewhere else.

J. Shaffer

So now there's a little more information. I can understand using tear gas if there were people throwing bottles and moving barricades.....

What I don't understand is the decision to close early, a decision made by police because 'the crowd was too big'. Alcohol can be sold on Saturday until one a.m. and bars can stay open until two. It sounds as though the promoters, vendors and shop owners were planning to stay open and the customers were there.....

How can the police decide to change the rules based only on crowd size? If I had planned to be there or was a vendor, I would be upset that officials closed the party early when there was no trouble.

It's also possible there may not have been trouble at all if the party had been allowed to close when expected and not earlier.

ScrabbleGuy
Stephen Maradeo

Year after year the problem worsens.

I blame Yaga's for it all. Tickets prices are too high for crappy entertainment. Security is reduced to help the bottom line.

Galveston needs to take the event back. Mike Dean and the Minions are killing Mardi Gras with each passing year.

TikiOwl

I was coming back from Houston about 10:30 pm Saturday night and Southbound I45 was filled with crazies racing towards Galveston. Guessing it was many of the people involved in the problems after the parade. It seems as if it is its own little event for some folks.

Cindy Milina

Seems to me it was a bad decision to attempt to close the event earlier than in previous years. The decision put our law enforcement in un-necessary danger and disappointed the revelers who payed big bucks to get in. The whole event isn't what it used to be. The city needs to take this event back. It was managed better as a city event. You didn't have to pay $18.00 to get in, and the blocks between Harborside and the Strand didn't look like a construction zone.

Khaki Arp

The area of 22nd and Strand are were the largest balcony parties are held and that area is always crowded. Why not clear those balconies earlier and get that crowd moving. Yes, we are always going to have those few that can't follow the rules. Over all, it was a great event. Thank you Mike Dean.

phillip cowart

These bad kids, and there are more than a few, think if they pay to enter the fence, they can do as they please. I've been looking at some of the private video, and it is unbelievable. The fence and charge draw this element and behavior. Take down the fence, and draw a more favorable crowd. Get rid of the wisky bars on every street corner, would also help. Wisky at local bars is controled, and not allowed on streets. Everyone can see it's not working.

Audrey Ayers

Was this tear gas or pepper spray? I have watched several different local tv stations and read several articles, still not certain!

Carlos Ponce

From http://www.pepper-spray-store.com
Mace and tear gas don't affect individuals under the influence, but pepper spray does.
According to the latest re-write, pepper spray was used.

Mary Branum

Pepper Spray. GPD did a great job. People today don't think rules apply to them.
There are always a few idiots that try to start something.
This is nothing compared to what goes on in New Orleans.

Andy Aycoth

I bet a pair of cuffs would affect someone under the influence.

JBG JBG

Audreyins,

More than likely it was tear gas! You pop and throw tear gas, and you spray pepper spray! I've had BOTH applied on me! It cleans out the nostrils! It get your thinking process in order! Both are very uncomfortable. My own experience was like this:
-
Tear gas cut my oxygen off and made me run for the hills trying to get some,..coughing and cryings loads along the way! Pepper spray put me on the ground gasping and crying like a baby,...with eyes burning, inside of nose burning, and generally not caring about anything but relief! With the pepper spray, water becomes as valuable as gold to you! You need water to wash it off for some relief but TIME will be the ultimate factor in relief showing up! That was my experience with them.
-
I hope that helps! Ohhh and my advice to everybody is don't get exposed to pepper spray!! When the police says to move,...then go on and move,...it is as simple as that! Once again, that pepper spray is no JOKE.

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