Peaceful night for the Castro

November 1, 2008 12:11:29 AM PDT
It was a happy Halloween for police in San Francisco determined to keep the Castro from becoming party central. The message is clear for outsiders to stay out.

At the city's official Halloween party, "Home for Halloween," it was a family-friendly event with food, live music, booths, and free masks. There was also heavy police protection at the location to promote safety.

"The deal is, last year was the first year for the Home for Halloween Campaign which encouraged people to find Halloween events in their own neighborhood. So this is the second year of that to discourage people from overwhelming any one neighborhood, specifically the Castro and this is the first big event to draw crowds away from the Castro," said David Perry, Home for Halloween organizer.

City officials wanted the Castro to be a ghost town Friday night, without the spirits and laughs. The street was open, along with the normal bars and businesses. This was the second year the party street was closed, after thousands of people jammed into the space in 2006 and it erupted in violence, with gunfire and stabbings. That's when the city pulled the plug.

"It's a shame really sad and they're taking away very few traditions San Francisco has," said Victor Avila, from San Francisco.

"San Francisco has always been a Halloween and costume city," said Michelle Cross, from Halloween Headquarters.
"The most popular items would be?" asked ABC7's Don Sanchez.
"Definitely Sarah Palin," said Cross.

Wigs to go and pirates are always popular. Kids went trick-or-treating in neighborhoods where they'll found a few haunted houses. Tony McCullom has been decorating his Mill Valley home for eight years.

"They get really scared. For the little ones we keep it really mellow, but when the kids get older, like seven and up, that's when we bring out the really scary stuff," said McCullom.

The party at the Giant's ball park got more adult as the night went on and yes, following tradition, there was a drag queen contest.

Police in the Castro

A San Francisco police lieutenant said things went well, there was no violence, and it was no different than a normal Friday night in the Castro.

It's been two years since the Castro was open for business on Halloween night. Violence at the 2006 event sparked a new citywide campaign called Home For Halloween, encouraging people to celebrate in their own neighborhoods.

"There's obviously more police presence, but they seem nice and they're just here to make sure nothing happens. And people seem mellow and we hope it stays that way," said John Casey, a Castro resident.

Six hundred extra police officers were spread throughout the city, many of them in the Castro, walking through the crowds making sure their presence is felt. They also set up barriers to keep pedestrians on the sidewalks because all the streets are open.

"We're here. We're not going to tolerate any drunk in public, any violent activity, anyone breaking the law, we're going to be here to enforce the law tonight," said Capt. David Lazar, with the San Francisco Police Department.

San Francisco tried to get some of the crowd to go to the first ever Halloween Festival an AT&T Park. It's billed as a family friendly event, but city officials say turnout was less than what they had hoped for.

However, with more than 100 events around San Francisco and the Bay Area, it could be people actually followed the advice of the Home For Halloween campaign and stayed in their neighborhoods.

"This is a year where you can go to North Beach, Fishermen's Warf, the Mission, South of Market and there are a lot of clubs and restaurants having events," said Bevan Dufty, a San Francisco supervisor.

Residents from the Castro are hopeful the other events in the city will keep trouble makers away, but despite the city wide effort some are skipping the Halloween celebrations all together.

"A lot of locals anticipated people coming from elsewhere to start trouble, so they leave town or stay inside," said David, a Castro resident.

There was one arrest for someone drunk in public, which caused a minor traffic delay. As for transportation, there was no extra service on Muni or BART.

Overall, it was a peaceful night in San Francisco.

List of Halloween events: click here

Halloween Festival in San Francisco: click here
San Francisco Halloween Festival


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