Quad-City Times
Sunday, May 19, 1996, Page 1A.
Fax 319-383-2433
Tel 319-383-2200

Melee erupts
at hemp event

Police use spray
to control crowd
on Credit Island

By Seth Hettena
and Doug Schorpp


      Police sealed off Davenport's Credit Island Park and made more than 30 arrests Saturday after a melee broke out between officers and participants at a marijuana-themed festival there.
     A Davenport police officer, Chad Langager, 36, was hositalized and expected to undergo surgery for a serious knee injury. One festival-goer who allegedly had been smoking marijuana came away with a broken nose.
      The Hempfest - which is intended, organizers have said, to promote the benefits of the hemp plant from which marijuana is made - was only 90 minutes old when the disturbance began. The crowd intervened after police moved in about 1:30 p.m. to arrest four people sharing a marijuana cigarette, authorities said.
      "There's no free day I'm aware of where we're not supposed to enforce laws," Davenport Police Chief Steve Lynn said. "We tried to deal with it as effectively as we could."
      Police set up a command center at Credit Island Park before the festival began. More than 50 officers, including Metropolitan Enforcement Group officers and sheriff's deputies, were on the scene.
      Lynn said several people incited the assemblage and called it "a crowd of near-riot proportion."
     During the fracas, police reports state that: officers were pushed, punched and spat upon; one participant allegedly tried to wrench an officer's nightstick from his grasp while others grabbed microphones in the park pavilion and urged the crowd to resist police.
      Police used a substance called Capstun similar to Pepper Defense Spray to disperse the 300 to 400 Hempfest participants who had come from around the Midwest.
      Witnesses said several children were affected by the burning, choking mixture. Tamara Kirkland, 17, of Moline, said her 4-year-old niece had to be carried off after she was sprayed.
     Lynn said the accidental spraying of some children was unavoidable because of the circumstances.
      Twelve participants, including the Hempfest organizer, Bob Moldenhauer, 43, of Rock Island, were arrested. Moldenhauer was being held in the Scott County Jail on $1,040 bond late Saturday, facing charges of possession of a controlled substance, trespassing, interference and possession of drug paraphernalia.
      Police reports state that Moldenhauer was told to leave the scene. He initially complied, but then returned and tried to hand officers leaflets.
      When he refused subsequent orders to leave he was taken into custody and had to be taken to the ground before he could be restrained, according to the reports.
      Other people arrested were being held on various charges, including possession of marijuana, inciting a riot and assaulting a police officer. More than 20 people, many of them in their teens, were issued citations, but were not held in custody.
      The use of the Capstun spray outraged some crowd members such as Josh Abney, 19, of East Moline. "They sprayed me, and I threw my Mountain Dew bottle at them," he said. "They made it a riot."
      Tanya Wheeler, 19, of Moline, said she felt the police provoked the fracas. "The mace wasn't aimed at people smoking," she said. "They were walking around spraying everybody. I had it in my mouth, and it burns your throat."
      Other witnesses also said the arrests were made with excessive force.
      Lynn said the event never should have been held in the park in the first place. Instead of acquiring a permit, Hempfest organizers applied for the use of a park shelter which only requires notifying the city's parks and recreation department.
      "They trashed LeClaire Park three years ago, and the city said they were not supposed to come back," he said. "But they circumvented the license this time."
      After the Hempfest was held in September 1993 at Prospect Park in Moline, neighbors complained to city officials, saying it was nothing more than a "drug party."

Image file: Police disperse the crowd on Davenport's Credit Island after a disturbance brought an early end to the spring Hempfest Saturday afternoon. More than 30 people, including the event organizer, were arrested.