Seattle's Fat Tuesday crowds turn unruly, according to police, on February 18, 1977, and again on February 19.

  • By Patrick McRoberts
  • Posted 1/01/2000
  • Essay 2223

On Friday and Saturday nights, February 18 and February 19, 1977, police report that crowds at the first carnival-style Fat Tuesday celebration in Seattle's Pioneer Square have turned unruly and officers are unable to enforce the law. Although the festival started out on February 14 in an innocuous and fun-filled mood, public drinking, marijuana smoking, and reports of open sex cause officers to throw out the rule book and adopt a "tolerance policy," only intervening where necessary. Police also report being pelted with beer bottles.

Fat Tuesday had opened to unforeseen crowds and, on Tuesday, February 15, the first full day of planned events, organizers were convinced they had a winner. Dick Lilly, director of the event, said, "It's the biggest Tuesday in Pioneer Square."

However, by Friday night, February 18, things were not going as well. Summer-like weather had increased turnout further, with an estimated 50,000 people viewing the Saturday afternoon parade and some 5,000 people crowding the streets until late at night on Friday and again on Saturday.

The crowds caught law enforcement officers by surprise. They reported public drunkenness and drug consumption, even involving children. In one incident, a man and a woman were reported to have sexual intercourse on the pavement at 1st Avenue S and S Washington Street as they were cheered on by a crowd of 100 people. Some officers said they were pelted by beer bottles.

Seattle Police Chief Robert Hanson later called for a greater level of planning for future festivals and a beefed up police presence.


Patrick McDonald, "Pioneer Square's Fat Tuesday a Big Success," The Seattle Times, February 18, 1977, Tempo section, p. 2; Paul Henderson and Peter Rinearson, "Lawless Tuesday: Pioneer Square Fete Turned Unruly," The Seattle Times, February 21, 1977, p. A-1; "Fat Tuesday Had Police Off Guard, Says Hanson," The Seattle Times, February 22, 1977, p. A-6.

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