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Keene, NH Rejects Pumpkin Festival After Violence

KEENE, N.H. (AP) — The City Council in Keene, New Hampshire, overwhelmingly rejected a permit for the annual Pumpkin Festival Thursday night after alcohol-fueled violence last year led to injuries, property damage and more than 100 arrests.

The council voted 13-1 not to grant the license.

The festival had been a family-friendly event for more than 20 years where participants try to set the record for most carved and lighted jack-o-lanterns.

Last year, police in riot gear used tear gas and pepper balls to control crowds that reached up to 2,000 people during the disturbances that erupted near Keene State College. More than 170 students were disciplined.

People threw beer cans and bottles, billiard balls, rocks, debris and bottles full of liquor. State Police Col. Robert Quinn said there was the potential for serious injury or even death.

A police department log shows officers responded to 235 calls between 2:30 a.m. Friday and 3:30 a.m. Sunday. One group of young people threatened to beat up an elderly man, and another resident heard someone "threatening to kill officers," according to the police log.

In the aftermath, the nonprofit group running the festival, Let It Shine, wanted the city to develop a security plan for the festival at an estimated cost of more than $300,000.

Police said social media helped draw a large number of outsiders to the festival and contributed to the mayhem but also helped make arrests. Keene police used a new application where people could send images and video directly to police from their smartphones. By searching the images, police identified several suspects.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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