Photos by Rick Kfoury. Click through the gallery below.
KEENE, NH – Throughout the day Saturday the police presence in Keene had become somewhat routine. It was something you got used to, even for a small-town New Hampshire kid like me, who had only known private school before college.
Uniformed officers, some from the State Police, stood by wooden barricades, intently keeping watch over crowds gathering for the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival, which seemed rather far away. Coming up to a city intersection you could see them, an inevitable human typhoon of beer bottles and backpacks against the sophisticated backdrop of industrial brick buildings and a distant ridge on fire with fall foliage.
As night fell, tensions rose. The kids got drunker and, rightly so, the police got tougher.
My girlfriend and I decided to go for a walk to grab coffee from the student center, a short walk that normally would have been mundane and uneventful. We had to wade through crowds of people shouting obscenities and challenging the authorities, who were there protecting them.
Down one side street we saw the orange haze of a fire. Street signs knocked to the sidewalk and tossed in bushes. We returned to our dorm where we saw a few officers in riot gear had assembled in the street.
The crowd was getting unruly. I grabbed my Canon Rebel (a graduation gift from my parents) and took up a position next to a light pole and started taking photos of the police directing kids this way and that. Behind me, a few out-of-state students had taken a street sign out of the ground and were tossing it like a javelin. One tried jumping over a pile of street signs with a skateboard. Not 50-feet away the police stood, watching.
For the next two hours I snapped pictures just feet from riot police as a helicopter circled above, a loudspeaker blaring warnings and flashing a spotlight. This wasn’t my school. It was nothing I could have ever imagined.
When the State Police finally rushed in force down Winchester Street, with full riot gear, I began to contemplate why all this was happening. Sure alcohol was involved. Sure these were college students having “the time of their lives.”
But it went deeper than that. These are my peers, the members of my generation who I will grow up with, live with, make history with. I was appalled at their actions, their ignorance, their lack of care for anything but personal enjoyment. Many at the scene were victims, who were equally as horrified.
But the perpetrators, the ones who intensified the situation, made me realize that my generation has lost a key component: respect. To fight authority, to question leadership and lawful decision making is the new norm. One who conforms to traditional American thinking, to a trust of those in power, have become the new outcasts.
Sadly, gone are the days when police officers are respected by the majority. The presence of the sickening CopBlock group at the riot has confirmed that. Also gone are the days when people think, “Maybe we’re not the only ones who are being affected?” What about the people of Keene? What about those who have to clean up, put new signs in, sweep the streets? What about the owners of the cars, the houses, the businesses damaged? What about the historic city of Keene itself, which has a proud and family-friendly tradition that has been marred by ill-action?
It’s time my generation gets a wake up call. It’s time to end an era of selfishness.
Rick Kfoury is a freshman at Keene State college studying history and secondary education. His hobbies include photography and railfanning. He has written and self-published a detective-noir novel, ‘Queen City’ set in Manchester. Kfoury hails from Raymond, NH.