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FIRST ON 3: Wilmington Police use pepper spray to break up Downtown Halloween crowd Saturday

READ MORE: FIRST ON 3: Wilmington Police use pepper spray to break up Downtown Halloween crowd Saturday

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Halloween is a time to dress up with your friends and snap some pictures of creative costumes, but after this year's Halloween in downtown Wilmington, some people are reliving their weekend from a YouTube video.

A number of videos are floating around YouTube of what Wilmington Police officers say was a rowdy crowd late Saturday night and early Sunday morning. In the videos you can see a large crowd of people hanging outside the bars right after closing time. The crowd is chanting, "U-S-A!"

Lt. Ed Pigford says police officers tried to tell people to start moving out of the area, but were unsuccessful. Pigford says the crowd of people jumping up and down had the potential to be violent.

After numerous attempts, officers released pepper spray into the air, not at any people, but to get people moving.

"We're trying to avoid a mob mentality, and we're trying to avoid injury by trying to split these crowds up as quickly as we can," Pigford said. "If you allow these crowds to form, we've all seen video of college-type crowds. We've all seen YouTube videos of them turning vehicles over, breaking windows and tearing down signs."

Pigford says about 8,000 people were on Front Street Saturday night. He also says only one woman sought treatment from the pepper spray.

Pigford says that use of pepper spray or any physical means of getting people under control is a last resort, but when there are a lot of people who are heavily intoxicated, it's hard to get people to obey what they say.

To watch the videos, click here:

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


Read the article

"Pigford says about 8,000 people were on Front Street Saturday night. He also says only one woman sought treatment from the pepper spray."

Where do you get the 50-75 number of people?? The article clearly states 8,000 which truly is not unrealistic when you factor in the ton of bars down there and the capacity for each... I know of one bar downtown that has a capacity of up to 200 and that's just one bar...if you think there were 50 people there, you clearly have not been downtown on a Saturday night when every bar closes down and people pour into the streets.

Maybe you need to get your facts straight before you post.

I was a taxi down there that night

I would like to know why people were worried about cars parked there at all seeing as there were supposed to be none. FRONT ST IS A TAXI STAND PEOPLE!!!!

The only thing this accomplished was killing business Sunday Night.

WPD never does their job downtown. Illegal taxis run rampant, innocent Marines are clubbed by cops with batons for standing in a group (yes we have seen this), college kids of legal age are harassed and mistreated and real crime is ignored because they simply do not want to do the paperwork. Noticeable DUI's pass parked police units while the cops talk in groups on street corners rather than enforce the law.

Get on the ball Wilmington, let your kids party and the taxis do their job. Enforce THE LAWS and things will go smoothly. Act like kids with your weaponry and chaos will rein.

So the next time a police

So the next time a police officer bitches about people being mean and disrespectful I am going to hand them a pocket copy of the constitution and tell them to read that mother f***er cover to cover before they EVER try and ask me ANYTHING. YOU SERVE THE PUBLIC TRUST, PROTECT THE INNOCENT AND UPHOLD THE LAW...THAT IS YOUR JOB. Your job is NOT to CAUSE problems...this looks as bad as the s**t the Pittsburgh Police Department was doing during the G-20 Summit...the only thing is...THIS IS IN MY STATE, IN MY BACK YARD.

I Was There!

I was one of the people in this crowd. I can tell you it was not just college kids. It was business owners, college kids, tourists, local citizens, marines, soldiers etc. I never once heard a warning, not once. I saw several police officers and they never aid a word to me about leaving. We were in a closed off street for gods sake! I've been in bigger riots that were controlled much more effectively simply by talking to the crowd. In a time where everyone criticizes the young for being unpatriotic and anti-authority, it is a shame we gas them for cheering USA! in the streets. I am a tax paying citizen of New Hanover County and have the right to enjoy myself downtown, legally, and not get shot up with pepper spray. Before the gas, the crowd was happy and celebrating. Afterwards it turned into an angry, confused mob. People were being trampled on, stepped on by horses, having asthma attacks etc. Tell me which situation was more of a danger?


Someone from the crowd actually admits it was a "riot." Thanks for sharing your perspective to those of us who could not make it down there. ;)

Grow up people!

I am 31 years old and have been a fan of downtown nightlife for many years. I do see a trend for the worse with the crowds that frequent downtown on Friday and Saturday nights. There are a lot more fights, rapes and muggings than I ever remember! I know we are in a hard economic time, but people please act as if you have a brain! I think downtown is very unique and has a lot of culture and creative ideas in a small 4 or 5 city block area. When people continue to behave this way, the people in charge will sooner or later decide to make it harder for people to have casual fun downtown with some alcohol. If your not from NC or even Wilmington area, then the typical mentality for a young person is I don't care what happens as long as I have one night of fun. Try to think of the people who live in this area and love and cherish the uniqueness of downtown Wilmington. If you really want to put things into perspective, then go to level 5 bar about 1 hour before sunset and have a casual drink with a friend or loved one. Look around from the rooftop at downtown Wilmington and across the cape fear river looking at the memorial bridge or the battleship as the sun sets behind the horizon and you might change your mind of how special this small downtown is! Please try to think about other instead of yourselves for a change and try to enjoy life and not destroy life!


Just waiting in line

I was just waiting in line to get pizza from New York Pizza. There was no warning from police. Everyone just started coughing.

The police acted extremely unprofessional.

yea right

I was a DD that night and in that crowd that got pepper sprayed/tear gassed. KNOW ONE warned us and if they did, the should used a megaphone. THERE WERE WAY TO MANY PEOPLE BEING LOUD TO HEAR ANYTHING OUTSIDE THE "USA, USA, USA."

I believe it was insane that they would pepper spray the air to get people to get out of the street.....which was blocked off for people to be in, in the first place.

I have seen crowds more rowdy after a sporting event. I've seen crowds get crazier inside the bars.

That was all for fun. I indeed had a blast, until cops pepper sprayed the air, and then tried to arrest numerous people around me.

A guy was sitting out side of the opera room bar on grace st. JUST SITTING, and cops drove by and then just arrested him. right after the pepper spray. Wilmington cops really need to just do there job and keep people safe, not give people seizures, and cause harmless people having fun to throw up on one another on a favorable holiday celebration.

They throw up every Saturday night

Trust me, it wasn't the pepper spray. It was caused by the same thing that coats downtown in puke every weekend: Too much booze consumed by too many immature jerks, at too many bars.

I recall an occasion many, many years ago, when I drank a ridiculous number of martinis and then decided to consume a calzone the size of a football. Shortly thereafter I found myself driving the porcelain bus.

Looking back, I imagine one of the steps in my maturing and becoming a real adult was when I finally stopped blaming that calzone....

oh yeah this is the first time

that cops didn't know how to deal with the situation.

Both sides have to cooperate with each other

I see nothing wrong with dressing up and promenading downtown on Halloween. Water Street is the perfect place for that. But 3:00 a.m.? Give me a break, young kids shouldn't be drinking that much. Everybody needs to be at home at that hour.

I've been around awhile, Wrightsville, Wilmington.... before UNC-W. Kids will always be kids, but back then there wasn't anything but little hole in the wall beer bars and only 3.2 beer at that. We weren't allowed on the streets that late. The military had MPs at Carolina and Atlantic Beaches who DID NOT mess around so that took care of that. No pepper spray needed.

It's getting harder and harder for cops to distinguish from violence, not to mention there is terrorism in the mix these days. The downtown is old/historic. Somebody starts a fire like they do on college campuses and it's gone. It's happened before in Wilmington. They're sensitive about that.

Don't you think it's

Don't you think it's slightly illogical to use the 'it's happened before' argument against a crowd of kids on Halloween who clearly are not being violent? It was a fearful move by the police, and obviously so. This will result with less respect for the already unrespected police force in Wilmington.


Terrorism? Sure keep watching Fox news. People like you are the reason America is the way it is today. You are the reason why America is viewed the way it is today.


You know how to distinguish violence? When people , wait for it, ACT VIOLENTLY. You can't attack people because you suspect that they might act violently. As for terrorism? Please. You justify unprovoked chemical attacks on citizens on a night of celebration because of the potential for terrorism?You think perhaps Al Quaeda operatives were waiting for the bars to close in Wilmington on Hallowe'en night in order to release their secret candy bomb?

Good grief, America is well and truly screwed.

The City

The City thinks the downtown is a family place and want to move the Christmas tree there. I don't even go and would never think about taking my kids.

Help the Police - Beat Yourself Up

just sayin'...

Learn from Others

I have read and thought about many of the comments made regarding the crowds that go downtown..the name calling of the young people who go downtown and the Police Officers who are making an effort to make things safe...neither of these will make things better.

I have a student at UNCW and one at ECU....quite possibly our City Government should look into how Greenville/ECU handles large groups that "flock" to their downtown. They seem to do it well and appreciate the business, keeping the downtown alive and thriving. They have had their share of problems, but there does not seem to be a "bandwagon" looking to blame someone....just a group trying to solve the problems. As a parent I want the Police Officers/Mounted Police to be visable..they have a job to do.

There were 15,000 young people in downtown Greenville (students/visitors). Check points set up (due to costumes).
The City Manager, The Mayor and the Police Chief were pictured in the Greenville paper downtown on Halloween night.

You only have to drive through Greenville one time to see that the town SUPPORTS, WELCOMES AND RECOGNIZES that young people are not just "flocks".

Totally Agree

You are totally on point with your comment. I also had a student at ECU. Greenville embraces the presence of these young people and strive to make things safe for all. In Chapel Hill, there is a huge party on Franklin Street on Halloween. This crowd is 3 to 4 times larger than the group of your people in downtown Wilmington. Both of these cities have managed to work together with all concerned to provide a venue for celebration. The city leaders and law enforcement need to take some SERIOUS lessons from these two cities. This is a college town but other than the beach, I am at a lost as to why students want to be in Wilmington. They are insulted at every turn for just trying to have harmless fun.

p.s. and we wonder why

p.s. and we wonder why EVERYBODY ages 18-29 who come to Wilmington, try their hardest to get the heck back out! I rarely see UNCW grads stay in Wilmington EVER.

110% agreed!!!!!! Trying to

110% agreed!!!!!! Trying to have a party in this town is a joke!

Pansy Nation

Good God, people, it was pepper spray. It's not going to harm anyone, just get them to engage their legs and disperse as directed.

Experience (on both sides of the shield)has taught me that when a police officer tells you to "move along," a wise man moves along. It's just like fighting with the cops or running from the cops. You're NOT going to win, so why suffer the embarrassment of losing?

Pepper Spray can be fatal

Before you start making comments about how it's "just pepper spray", be aware that there are people with respiratory problems (asthma, etc) and some may be allergic to capsaicin (the oil that makes pepper spray "peppery"). If someone were to have an allergic reaction or an asthma attack, it's entirely possible for them to die.

Now, if you are in an encounter with a police officer, and he warns you that he's gonna pepper spray you (which I believe they are SUPPOSED to do), and you don't do what you're being told to do, then that's one thing.

It's quite another to be standing on a public street, NOT hearing any requests from officers to "move along, citizen", and start inhaling aerosolized pepper spray.

The point here is that THEY WEREN'T DIRECTED TO LEAVE, the ENVIRONMENT was sprayed without warning. Granted, only one person went to the hospital. So in your mind "it's ok" to spray a CROWD with pepper spray without warning? What if that person had died due to anaphalactic shock? Would it still be ok? What if that person was your wife?? You'd still be calling people "pansies"?

No, sir, I think you'd be first in line screaming "LAWSUIT" at the top of your lungs, waving a copy of the Constitution around, talking about how there WAS no violence, that every person is innocent until proven guilty, and that they should not have sprayed a CROWD of INNOCENT people with harmful inhalents.

Some of us aren't waiting for a person to die first.

What WPD did was WRONG and they need to change the policy and show the people of Wilmington that they realize it was an abuse of authority and reassure us that ALL WPD officers will get further crowd control training so this blatant abuse of civil rights doesn't happen in the future.

Mark my words, this is another step in a very long line (and icy slope) of abuses that will go unpunished by the people who are supposed to be in control but are asleep at the wheel.

AMEN BROTHER!!! well said...

well said...

"Pansy Nation" poster is a facist turd

"Experience (on both sides of the shield)has taught me that when a police officer tells you to "move along," a wise man moves along."

I'll be damned... if I am a law abiding citizen in a public thoroughfare, the LEO in question can frankly get bent. We don't live a police state yet dammit, and I AM IN NO WAY LEGALLY PREVENTED FROM WALKING THROUGH A PUBLIC AREA WHILST NOT COMMITTING ANY CRIMES.

You make me want to vomit.

what part of moving dont you get?

Common said: "when a police officer tells you to "move along," a wise man moves along."


Key word is "WALKING" THEREFORE YOU WOULD BE MOVING ALONG....duh. Now if you walk into the group that is acting like 5 year olds, you can be arrested for NOT disbursing.

What do you think cops are for? To keep the peace and prevent chaos if possible. IF you are a "law abiding citizen" you wouldn't have a problem with it.

Go ahead, but clean up your mess

What you don't seem to grasp is that an officer is not going to tell you to move along unless there is a REASON to do so. You may neither know nor understand the reason, but if there IS a legitimate reason, then the officer had the legal authority to tell you to move along and you are bound to obey or risk arrest.

It really IS that simple, and you're NOT going to win an argument with an officer when he knows he has the law on his side.

that's the problem

the cops didn't notify anyone they just sprayed the pepper spray on a bunch of civil kids that where on a blocked off street.

Sorry, I watched the videos

All it would have taken was one horse's rear end to break a window or set a trash can on fire, and chaos would have ensued. I've been in riots and they all have one thing in common - they were "really peaceful" just a few seconds before, and less than one-percent of the crowd started the whole thing.

WPD took quick, pre-emptive action and broke up what could have become a dangerous situation very quickly. You can't WAIT until the riot starts, then wait to organize your anti-riot force.

If getting pepper sprayed is the worst that happens to you in life, you've led a charmed life.

and another thing

if you watched the video

at :15 two cops walk by unopposed and no word was said hey guys come on break it up.

...and of course, you know...

....what's going on at the other side of that mob, right? Was one of the two officers the senior officer in command, the guy who had to make the decisions? No, there's no way for you to know that. Did you consider that the two officers were possibly being summoned to one end of the crowd to organize forces for a clearing operation?

Directors in Hollywood spends tens of thousands to make sure that they get a scene covered from every angle, to show everything the viewer needs to see.

In Wilmington, grainy, street level cellular phone videos shot in darkness from right inside the mob or from the distant edges tell the ENTIRE STORY story, right?