Police: Large fight on State Street on Saturday morning ‘not unusual’

After a 15-person fight happened on State Street early Saturday morning, which a Madison police sergeant called “bedlam” and “insanity,” the Madison Police Department and local business owners said similar fights are common when the bars close.

“We see this quite frequently on weekends, particularly Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights in the entertainment district, not just State Street, but University Avenue,” said Madison Police Department public information officer Joel DeSpain.

He said the fight started inside Qboda just before 2 a.m. when a group of people cut in line. Drinks were thrown and the fight spilled into the street.

Surveillance footage from The Green Barn Door, a CBD shop next door to Qboda, shows officers quickly arrive at the scene and try to take control of the situation. Officers used pepper spray on multiple people when they tried to intervene, according to an incident report.

“They’re seeing a lot of pushing, shouting. They start to contact people and the people they’re contacting begin to resist. And as those people begin to resist, their friends get involved. At the same moment, there are a lot of people spilling into the street from other bars because it’s bar time,” said DeSpain.

He said this kind of chaos is nothing new and that issues on State Street after the bars close are all too common and have been for a long time.

“It doesn’t surprise me. (It’s) the classic bar misunderstanding that turns into a scuffle, that gets two other people shoved around and, all of a sudden, you’ve got 20 people that are mad about they don’t know what,” said Landon Meske, general manager of Knuckleheads smoke shop.

The smoke shop is located above Qdoba. Meske said seeing fights and drunken people outside is “just part of being downtown.”

“I come into the shop with puke in front of my door all the time, so yeah, it gets nuts down here on State Street,” said Meske.

DeSpain said there have been more serious situations in which people have pulled out guns and started shooting at each other, so officers didn’t know what to expect when they arrived on Saturday.

This time, however, no one was hurt and a handful of people were arrested and cited, DeSpain said.

Thirteen Madison Police Department officers and three or four University of Wisconsin Police Department officers responded, putting a drain on police resources, DeSpain said.

“It’s unfortunate but, again, it’s not unusual. It’s one of the things that we’ve been talking to the council about and the need for more officers, particularly in the downtown area,” he said.

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