The Dispatch and Rock Island Argus
Sunday, May 19, 1996, Page A1.
Hemp Fest turns violent
33 arrested at Credit Island event
By Jonathan Turner
and Steven Jagler
DAVENPORT -- What started out to be a day of peace and
love quickly descended into violence and arrests, as this year's spring Hemp Fest at
Credit Island Park was closed early Saturday afternoon by police.
Thirty-three people were arrested on charges ranging from possession of controlled substances to assault, and one Davenport police officer was seriously injured.
Police and festival participants alike described the incident as a "riot" situation.
The 36-year-old police officer, a 16-year veteran of the department, suffered a leg injury that requleed surgery at a local hospital. Because he is an undercover officer, his name was not released by police.
Police reported no other injuries.
Saturday's festival began at noon. Shortly before 1 p.m., police began making arrests.
'Our intent was
not to close the
park down, but just
to monitor the
Officer Dave Kanaack,
That's when some of the festival-goers violently
resisted arrest and started "throwing bottles and rocks," said Officer Dave
Kanaack, one of about 20 officers at the scene. "Our intent was not to close the park
down, but juat to monitor the situation with regard to Iowa laws."
Since possession and recreational use of hemp, from which marijuana is derived, is illegal, Officer Kanaack said, "We're not just going to look the other way."
Obviously, some of the festival-goers held a different viewpoint.
"It's not right. We should be able to do what we want," said Joe Smith of Rock Island, who came to the festival just before the violence broke out. "Everybody was just having a good time until this started.
"It just broke out out of the blue," he said after police closed the island at 1:33 p.m.
Mr. Smith said many in the crowd defended those who were being arrested.
"Everybody stood up for everybody else," he said, estimating the crowd to be about 1,000. Other crowd estimates were much lower.
Mr. Smith said police officers used Mace to control and subdue the festival-goers.
Officer Kanaack said "there was an accident with a police officer" who was trying to control one individual and "some residual spray got in the direction of the crowd. Unfortunately, a lot of people were involved in this."
Hubert Evans of Davenport, who left the park just before the riot broke out, called the police department later Saturday to complain about their treattuent of the public.
"I don't appreciate them being so reckless with people's lives, walking around intimidating people," he said of police behavior before arrests were made. "They were creating a military threat in a peaceful situation. It was deliberately provocative."
"It used to be so different at the different locations. They were so much more lenient," said Sharon Valle of Bettendoff. "Occasionally, cops would stop by and look intimidating. But it would be very peaceful."
At least three men still were being held in the Scott County Jail Saturday night. According to a jail spokesman, the men, whose ages and addresses were not available, were: Joseph Loughead, charged with rioting and interference with official acts; Christopher Rice, charged with assault with injury to a Police officer, rioting and Interference with official acts; and Michael Winterlin, charged with assault with injury to a police officer, interference with official acts and disorderly conduct.
Hemp Pest organizer Robert Moldenhauer of Rock Island was arrested and charged with unlawful assembly, failure to disperse and possession. He could not be reached Saturday for comment.
A Davenport officer Saturday night said the department may be perceived to be harsher than others because "we've always pretty much had zero tolercance on any kind of drug activity." He said that reflects Chief Steve Lynn's position.
Saturday's melee wes not the first time tensions have risen between police and attendants of Hemp Fest in the Quad-Cities.
Police made "several" arrests in May 1995 during a festival at Loud Thunder Forest Preserve near Andalusia. Charges ranged from possession of cannabis, minors in possession of alcohol and contributing to the delinquency of minors all misdemeanors.
Rock Island County Sheriff Department Capt. Richard Fisher said at the time that the Loud Thunder event "was a complete disaster."
In September 1993, Moline police received complaints of illegal drug use, fighting, open profanity and yards being used as bathrooms during a hemp fest in Prospect Park.
After that event, Moline Police Chief Steve Etheridge said officers declined to make arrests in Prospect Park, fearing the actions "would start a riot."
Image file: A police officer searches the trunk of a car headed to Hemp Fest on Credit Island Saturday as one of the car's occupants watches.