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War of words over Philadelphia Mardi Gras

March 01, 2001
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War of words over Philadelphia Mardi Gras

PHILADELPHIA Pa.– The violence that erupted during Philadelphia’s Mardi Gras celebration has led to finger-pointing in several directions with store owners and residents blaming the police department and bars and city officials blaming the suburbs.

About 30,000 people swarmed into the trendy South Street neighborhood Tuesday to celebrate the night before Lent. The party turned ugly around midnight and several businesses, including a state liquor store, were looted. Police made more than 100 arrests, most for underage drinking or public lewdness.

Mardi Gras was not an official city event. The party was sponsored by several area bars and promoted on radio stations. The bars began serving early Tuesday morning, but owners say they were careful to card anyone who appeared to be under 21 and to bar those already visibly drunk.

Police Commissioner John Timoney defends his department’s handling of the event, saying that hundreds of police officers were on duty in the area. Some critics say the officers were clearly not where they needed to be.

More than half of those arrested were from outside the city, mostly from nearby suburbs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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