Canton Trashed on St. Patty’s: Residents reeling

Written by on March 22, 2012 in Baltimore Voices - No comments

O’Donnell Square got occupied on Saturday by a crowd of drunken frat boys and junior stockbrokers, and it wasn’t pretty. They trashed the square and then proceeded to squirt bodily fluids all over the residential quarter of Canton.

“My only consolation—I did not have my windshield cracked, mirror broken or car sideswiped, and yes, all of that has happened to me,” said a 16-year resident of Canton Square.

It’s important to note that there were two parties going on in Canton last weekend—the Meet in the Street party on the street sponsored by Claddagh Pub, the Mama’s restaurants and Portside Tavern, and the impromptu, illegal infield party going on inside the square.

The Meet in the Street party typically has a few problems, and every year the sponsors and members of the surrounding community get together and hash out a new Memorandum of Understanding that governs the event—how much security, what kinds of alcohol can be sold in the street, where the customers may go with those drinks, etc.

The infield party, the thermonuclear drink-and-destroy bash, was completely out of control and had nothing to do with the Meet in the Street party.

When you live in one of the waterfront neighborhoods, you mark a few dates on the calendar: St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, the graduation days of area colleges, the Fells Point Fun Festival, and New Year’s Eve.

Then you make plans to a) go out with the crowd and howl; or b) lay in supplies and stay home with a good book/ movie/ friend. Whether you fall into category a) or b) depends a little on your age and general settled-ness, and very few of category a) belong to the genus of nasty drunks that ruined last weekend’s party for many.

This year, St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Saturday that was also enjoying mid-May weather. Everything that was loose rolled into Baltimore, and many of those rolled into O’Donnell Square. Most of those people enjoyed themselves, listened to some music, had a few Harps or Guinnesses and either strolled or drove home without bothering anyone, reducing property values or causing any unsanitary condition.

But O’Donnell Square was trashed. We have some pictures here, and residents posted pictures and videos all over Facebook. It looked like a war zone complete with beer-bottle shrapnel. And the square was not even open to drinking—people were supposed to be drinking in the tents pitched next to participating bars.

“It looked like the Preakness,” said Vivian Clarke of Claddagh Pub. “That should never have happened.”

She says that most of the trash she saw did not come from the bars participating in the bash. “I know what we were selling, we were selling Bud Light in plastic. And that is not what I saw in the square.”

“I agree with Vivian,” said the Canton Square resident. “The liquor store was selling cases to go…there was so much broken glass in the square. God forbid any small child plays in the grass.”

Clarke, her family and staff, plus the families and staffs of Mama’s and Portside, cleaned up the square beginning at 5 a.m.

And by 10 a.m. Sunday, they had more than 50 bags of trash  piled at the entrances for pickup. The square was once again clean—well, we could use a little rain to finish the job, but it was a great improvement over 11 p.m. Saturday.

Most of the trash came from the liquor store on the south side of the square, which at times had a line going out the door waiting to buy cases of beer. The cops were overwhelmed by the crowd and contented themselves with writing citations for an unlucky few.

Police would not say how many officers were in the square. Next year, though, the police will come up with a new plan. “We will make sure that there is an adequate number of officers there,” said Baltimore Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. “What happened to the neighborhood was tragic and it shouldn’t have happened.”

It’s quite possible that with colleges getting out for spring break, temperatures in the 70s, and St. Patrick’s falling on a Saturday, that last week’s green bacchanal was one of the wildest and craziest we will see for a good long while.

“People put up with a lot for this,” says Clarke. “We know they do.”

“We have to put a little onus on the people too. These are adults and adults have a responsibility,” said Guglielmi. “When you drink you don’t have to be lawless and destroy property.”

This is a good time to start planning for next year’s event—what problems did you see during the St. Patrick’s Day bash, and what would you put in next year’s agreement to solve the problems? Or do we all just pray to St. Patrick for seasonal weather? We’ll put reader suggestions in print next week.

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