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Fat Tuesday festival, Seattle's third, ends in melees on February 18 and February 19, 1979.

HistoryLink.org Essay 2226 : Printer-Friendly Format

On February 18 and February 19, 1979, police confront unruly crowds of mostly young people, who pelt them with bottles and rocks, during the closing days of the third annual Fat Tuesday festival in Seattle's Pioneer Square. The melees result in dozens of injured officers and spectators, and in charges of police brutality.

More than 90 persons were treated at area hospitals and some 29 police officers were injured in incidents on Saturday night, February 18, as crowds of young revelers threw rocks and bottles and police tried to stop them. A similar chain of events transpired on Sunday night, February 19. Eight officers on horseback were pelted with rocks and bottles. Later, a crowd estimated at 350 people bombarded a police communications unit van with rocks, bottles, and cans.

Late Sunday night, police pulled back from Pioneer Square in hopes that the mayhem would fizzle out.

Some participants charged that they were falsely arrested and that police beat bystanders. The allegations later mounted into formal police brutality charges and sparked an internal investigation that was to be the most far-reaching since the "riot years" of the 1960s.

Some officials urged the City to end support for the festival, but those who maintained that the acts of a few shouldn't eliminate the good of the many eventually won out, and Fat Tuesday carried on.

Paul Henderson and Peter Lewis, "Weary Police Pull Back as Fat Tuesday Ends," The Seattle Times, February 19, 1979, p. A-1; Peter Lewis, "Police Tactics Criticized," The Seattle Times, February 19, 1979, p. A-15; Michael R. Fancher, "City Urged to Withdraw Support for Fat Tuesday `Brawl,'" The Seattle Times, February 21, 1979, p. A-14; Peter Lewis, "Fat Tuesday's Future in Doubt," The Seattle Times, February 24, 1979, p. A-7; Dave Birkland, "Police-brutality Charges Fly," The Seattle Times, February 24, 1979, p. A-1.

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