Entering Mifflin Street

I remember the first time I heard about Mifflin, when I was a freshman living in Ogg Hall. “Dude! It’s a party where all of us can drink and we don’t need fakes and stuff, there’s like, brats, and we can drink!” I never have been much of a party-person (some may disagree) and I wisely decided that instead of risking tickets and fistfights in a quest for cups of crappy beer, I would spend my first Saturday in May sleeping in; enjoying my weekend the way I always did. I liked my new Mifflin tradition so much that I repeated it in 2006 and 2007 as well.

However, there comes a time when a man realizes “oh crap, I’m going to graduate soon; I’d better experience as much stuff as possible!” So it was with some trepidation that I took to that fabled street this weekend in a quest to see what I could see.

The answer: a lot of drunk people. A lot of Miller Lite. Beer pong – in the street! A freestyling artist, on a porch, who somehow managed to rhyme “platypus” with something. I wish I knew what it was; he’s a better man than I. For poetic justice, I went with my longtime friend and former roommate from freshman year, TJ. We were all relaxing, drinking some of the flavored water called Miller, watching the scenes. I watched some frat boys steal parking signs. We laughed at people passed out while urinating against buildings. Good times, good times.

I ran into my friend and fellow activist Miles, who had his sign and his bandana and was rallying several thousand partygoers to take action and not to let this swarm of cops take over Mifflin. I watched him, but I didn’t join him…see, arguing for activity on anything besides drinking at Mifflin is pretty much a lost cause. He and I were talking when a group of large, possibly intoxicated gentlemen swayed up to him, poking at him, grabbing at his sign. “We should beat your ass, you little faggot,” they slurred politely at him. “Bet you’d want the cops around THEN, wouldn’t you.” As things started to get more heated, I was able to pull my angry friend away from the gentlemen, reminding him of the truth: idiots aren’t worth getting our heads beaten in, regardless of whether or not the cops would rescue us. Personally, I didn’t think it would be a problem – I had been watching the officers; packs of two or three of them striding up and down the street, tinted glasses casting about for the hint of a person stepping onto the street with an open intoxicant. I didn’t share Miles’ anger…the cops were just there, like mobile furniture, with nightsticks. For activists like us though, Mifflin really is a pretty sad state of affairs, considering it was created to be a big hippie, antiwar party and way to fight repression with fun. Here’s a little history on it.

I heard some not-so-fun stories about the party on Monday. Scott, a neighbor of mine, described visiting a friend’s house on Mifflin the day of the party. This guy had the extreme bad luck of having a broken door latch, which means the thousands of partygoers apparently treated the place like a public urinal…and worse. Scott told me that he had come across a guy, breaking open his friend’s liquor cabinet and dumping a 30 year old bottle of wine into a Nalgene water bottle. Of course, Scott incredulously demands to know what the heck the guy thinks he was doing. “Dude, it’s okay,” the guy babbles to him, “I paid for this.” Scott replies with, “you can’t even pronounce the name of that wine’s vintage!” Even more disgusting, after this fiasco, Scott and his friend find a girl and her friend walking out the broken front door with a family heirloom stuffed under her shirt. Scott grabs her and, logically, demands to know what it is she’s got there. The drunken criminal’s friend responds that, “it’s just her flask!” Stories like this, of the sheer amount of property damage and insanity of people taking things that don’t belong to them, valuable things, make me sick. I don’t think I could have maintained the control Scott and his friend did; I probably would have beaten them upside the head with a beer bottle or something. Where do these cretins get off?

March Miles, MarchI wasn’t done talking about the police, either. I left soon after talking with Miles, but he told me the next day that the police had arrested him, for disorderly conduct. Now, I know Miles, and I know he’s more than capable of disorderly conduct. However, I also know that he wouldn’t lie when he says he wasn’t doing anything more than holding his (admittedly anti-police) sign. How can you charge someone for that, though? How is it disorderly conduct? So they charge their horses at him, grab his sign, handcuff him to a chair with the ~500 other arrested partygoers. He asks for his sign back, but is of course, rebuffed. “We’re using it as evidence,” they tell him. However, he has an insider up at the capitol who tells him that they found the sign just crumpled into a trash can. Simply ludicrous. They can’t possibly charge him – they have no evidence! They just wanted to charge him with something and lock him up! …which they did. They locked him in jail for 4 hours before he was processed and released.

So that was Mifflin 2008. My Mifflin wasn’t so bad, obviously (pointless drinking of bad beer aside), but the amount of arrests, going up every year, gets more and more “interesting.” Did you know that the number of arrests has gone from two, six years ago, to four hundred and thirty eight (and counting), this year? Read more about it here at the Badger Herald. It seems the police decided in 2004 that they could make a cash cow off of arresting people for minor (or non-existent, in Miles’s case) offenses. Even though the number of arrests has steadily risen for the past 6 years, the attendance this year was lower than usual because of the weather. How interesting. This data will be worth tracking over the next few years. Let the people, both students and older members of the Madison community, decide how to view these statistics come next election season.

In any case…my first, and only, and last Mifflin. Apparently, I should have been there in 2003!