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Madison police take hard stance against Mifflin Street Block Party, threaten citations

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison police promised to enforce Gov. Tony Evers' Safer at Home order at the annual Mifflin Street Block Party scheduled for this Saturday.

Officers have told area residents and landlords that "festivities will not be tolerated," according to a press release published Wednesday. Authorities said any nonresidents who gather will get citations for at least $367.

"While MPD has historically taken a fairly tolerant view of the Mifflin Street Block Party, this year is different," said Chief Vic Wahl. "Any parties or gatherings occurring are in violation of the Governor's ‘Safer at Home’ order."

Public health officials have repeatedly advised against large social gatherings, saying it could increase the spread of COVID-19.

"Holding a gathering like the Mifflin Street Block Party during this crisis would go against the current orders and every public health recommendation we have," said Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison and Dane County.

She went on to call any decision to participate in the block party "extremely irresponsible." Doing so, Heinrich argued, "would certainly result in more COVID-19 cases in Madison, Dane County, and likely beyond as we know Mifflin has always been a destination."

Madison police also said they would share the information of any UW-Madison students cited for participating in the party with the Dean of Students "for possible school discipline."

"Please do what's best for public health and stay home," Wahl said.

"The precautions that they're taking to stop, limit the bock party are unfortunate, but it's necessary," Mifflin Street resident Chris Gilbertson says. "Also, the fines are initimidating," says Gilbertson's housemate, Cannon Lock.

Officers Wednesday went door to door to inform residents and landlords that hosting any party-goers would bring sanctions, as police, health and university officials worked in concert to discourage the annual event.

"Doing the door to door, the personal contact is just one piece of that strategy," Wahl says.

Lock says people living off of Mifflin Street have talked of staging smaller gatherings Saturday on Mifflin to continue the block party tradition. But he says once they become aware of the police warnings, their intentions will likely change.

Here is the letter Madison Police are giving to stakeholders on Mifflin Street:

Mifflin Street Area Residents,

As in past years the spring student party, known as the Mifflin Street Block Party, will not be a City permitted or sanctioned event on April 25th. Last year, house parties that were under control and not overcrowded were tolerated by the City of Madison Police Department. However this year, with COVID-19 and Governor Evers’ Stay At Home Order, house parties of any size will not be tolerated. This letter acts as your formal warning and the Madison Police Department expects that only residents of the addresses in the Mifflin St area will be present. Anyone in the area who does not live there and not performing ‘essential’ business will be cited (at a minimum) for:

Ø 7.05(6) Unlawful For Individual To Create/Permit A Health Nuisance (minimum of $376 for first offense)

(Residents can also be cited under this ordinance if they allow a gathering to take place)

In the event that the Governor’s Stay At Home Order is not extended past its current expiration of 8am on Friday April 24th, the Dane County Public Health Director has stated that she will “immediately issue a public health order…to take all measures necessary to prevent, suppress, and control communicable diseases.”

This Dane County Public Health Order will continue to restrict any public or private gatherings of individuals who are not part of single household or living unit.

If the Madison Police Department has to respond to your address to investigate an unlawful gathering or house party we will strictly enforce the following ordinances as well:

Ø Underage drinking – If you look under 21 and have alcohol, you will be asked to provide proof of age. (Mandatory Court and maximum fine of $187 for first offense)

Ø Procuring Alcohol – If you provide alcohol to someone who is not yet 21, you will be cited. This includes the underage people who walk into your open home and help themselves to alcohol. You are responsible for controlling who comes into your home and any alcohol you have in your residence. ($376 per violation per roommate)

Ø Dispensing Alcohol – You and your friends who are 21 or older can buy alcohol together and drink alcohol together, but you cannot resemble a bar. Any exchange of money for alcohol constitutes dispensing alcohol. ($681 per roommate)

Ø Open Intoxicants on Public Street – The ‘Public Street’ extends from the sidewalk across the street to the opposite sidewalk. No open alcohol is allowed in this area. ($313)

Ø Unreasonable Noise – Unreasonable noise can include anything from a loud individual person to loud music coming from speakers or other devices. ($187 per roommate)

UW DEAN OF STUDENTS: The UW Madison Dean of Students office assists the City of Madison with holding students who commit illegal activities accountable for their actions. If you choose to have an illegal house party or gathering on or around 04/25/2020 and you are cited by the Madison Police Department, your information will be sent to the UW Madison Dean of Students office.

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JT Cestkowski

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