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A look back at Testicle Festival riot in 2001

Editor's note: The following stories were published in The Forum in June 2001 following an uprising at Lindenwood Park in south Fargo.

Police: Officers provoked, Festivalgoers began to get unruly at park (June 10, 2001)

By Steven P. Wagner and Jeff Baird / The Forum

About 50 people who apparently tried to provoke a rowdy confrontation with police Friday night hopefully got the message their tantrums and tactics aren't welcome in Fargo, Police Chief Chris Magnus said Saturday.

The response came during a chaotic uprising at Lindenwood Park, where police said some music fans harassed campers and a wedding event there.

"I think the worst is past us," Magnus said. "My hope is they are tired of the reception they've received here."

Eyewitnesses said some music fans attacked police and officers were justified in their response.

Bruce Mulford was camped next to the music fans.

"The police had every right for doing what they did," the Fargo resident said. "One of the officers arrested a kid for underage drinking. They put him in the car, nicely. As soon as they arrested him, the crowd turned on (the officer), and all hell broke lose."

A group of about four young adults attacked an officer in retaliation for the arrest and "knocked him down," he said.

That's when police started swarming to the scene.

Momentum built all last week as hundreds of people began arriving in the Fargo-Moorhead area in anticipation of Testicle Festival, a three-day, 33-band rock concert.

It subsided, police hope, after a rebellious and, at times, physical outbreak at the Fargo park, where some of the fans had registered to camp.

"We were lucky," Magnus said. "I'm surprised there were no injuries, considering the number of people and the mood."

Saturday, the park was quiet with just a few group members hanging around.

A few fans (who used nicknames) at the park said they paid for their campsite and had traveled hundreds of miles to hear the music and have some fun.

They also admitted to drinking, but some said the police tried to trap them into driving drunk when officers told them to leave.

The chaos, at times involving at least 200 young adults and 40 officers from Fargo and other law enforcement agencies at the park, resulted in seven arrests, including one for assault on a police officer.

"I thought the officers involved showed a great deal of restraint," Magnus said. "They were insulted, provoked and assaulted."

Officers were en route to Lindenwood when Fargo Park District officials contacted police about an altercation there.

Problems began at the park when some of the grunge rock fans wandered from campsite to campsite, begging for money and taking food from other campers, Magnus said.

The group then interrupted a wedding reception at the park's pavilion. When officers arrived, Magnus said it appeared the group would cooperate with police.

"We wanted the overflow to leave," the chief said. "There were way too many people for the campsites."

While many of the music fans cooperated and left, officers said many were smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol illegally in the park.

Between 40 and 50 remained and appeared to want a confrontation with police officers, Magnus said.

Some began chanting, "Kill the cops," he said.

"A lot of them had video cameras. I think that shows their savvy and experience at agitating. I think it would be unfair to say they were all outsiders. Most of the ones causing the problems were outsiders."

Music fans, many of whom ride railroad cars or travel several thousands of miles for the performances, claimed police brutality when officers attempted to control the scene.

Police issued at least five warnings before fans attacked officers, Magnus said.

"The force I saw being used was proportionate to the resistance," he said. "We're not talking about a great deal of force because we had no injuries to the people who were arrested.

"I think that shows how conscientious officers are of using force."

Noel Olson, who works for the park district, was with the officers when the altercation started.

He said the police were telling the group there was no drinking at the campsites they reserved.

"They thought that was harassment when (officers) were really just doing their jobs," he said.

Linda Geir of Grand Forks and her daughter, Jamie of Fargo, ran to see what the commotion was about.

"We saw them scuffling, but we didn't see who started it," Jamie said. "I think the kids were ticked off because they had nowhere to go, and the cops told them to leave."

Jamie said one young adult came to their campsite and asked for food. She didn't, however, consider it a hassle.

"We wouldn't have called the police, but then again we were about eight sites away," said Linda's husband, Ron.

The family agreed that once the altercation started, the police weren't out of line.

The chief said officers easily could have been justified in arresting more people. One person brandished a crowbar, and several others put bandannas over their faces once the conflict began.

Alcohol and illegal drugs undoubtedly played a role in the incident, Magnus said. "There were many people very, very drunk," he said.

Some music fans called officers fascists and claimed young people aren't welcome in Fargo. However, Magnus said he finds the statements hypocritical.

The fans demand respect, but failed to act responsibly and plan the event, he said.

"They've chosen a lifestyle that entails going on the road and protesting," Magnus said. "They're making a choice.

"Part of that choice includes going from place to place and making as much of a disturbance as possible."

Officer Pat Claus, whose beat includes downtown, said he had been in contact with dozens of the music fans in the past 10 days.

"These weren't Boy Scouts by any means," Claus said. "This is no Greenpeace, Sierra Club group here."

Fans camped out along the Red River, under bridges and on Fargo's bike paths. The areas were clean before the group arrived in town, but now those areas are strewn with beer cans, whiskey bottles and trash.

Some areas also were defaced with graffiti.

However, during the week, many were cooperative with Claus as he told them where and how they could legally congregate.

An overwhelming number were friendly with him, but that changed when he arrived at Lindenwood Park, where they became angry and shouted at him.

Police stepped up their numbers Saturday evening, bringing more officers on duty to deal with any problems arising from the group.

Seven arrested

Officers arrested the following people during Friday's confrontation in the park:

  • Lauren Elizabeth Oaks, 21, Fairfax, Va., for disorderly conduct, resisting a police officer, rioting and disobedience of a police officer during riot conditions
  • Chad Allan Borsheim, 22, Moorhead, for preventing arrest
  • Kristen Elaine Andries, 23, Bixby, Okla., for resisting a police officer and disobedience of a police officer during riot conditions
  • Thomas Earl Williams, 24, no permanent address, for inciting a riot, preventing arrest and simple assault on a police officer
  • Craig A. Wagner, 19, Sidney, Ohio, for physical obstruction of a government and rioting.
  • Adam Kenneth Larson, 18, Des Moines, Iowa, for minor in possession of alcohol.
  • Jason William Dubery, 19, Brandon, Manitoba, for inciting a riot, resisting a police officer and physical obstruction of a government function.


Chaos in city park, Seven arrested after stranded festivalgoers become violent (June 9, 2001)

By Jeff Baird / The Forum

A tense standoff between police and a large group of irate youth ended in violence and seven arrests Friday night at a south Fargo park.

Police were called to Lindenwood Park about 7:50 p.m. after a wedding party complained of being harassed, Fargo Police Chief Chris Magnus said during an 11 p.m. news conference.

Magnus said the four initial responding officers found some of the youths consuming alcohol at campsites along the Red River. He estimated the group numbered about 200.

He said the youths were hostile when police confronted them.

One man brandished a crowbar, and, at one point, the crowd broke into a chant of "kill the cops," Magnus said.

Violence quickly escalated as more than 40 officers arrived on the scene. None of the seven people arrested were from the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Arron Reule of Fargo was at the park when the altercation erupted. He said Magnus' description of what happened is "grossly exaggerated."

Reule said police ordered the group of about 50 to 60 young people to leave the park, but made it impossible by blocking the road.

"I tried to get as many people as I could to leave the park, but they (police) were blocking the way," he said.

Police cars were scattered along Lindenwood Parks Roger Maris Drive, and it would have been impossible for the youths to leave by car, Reule said.

That's when trouble broke out, Reule said.

Some of the youths did yell at police, he said.

"They don't like us because we stink," some screamed. Others shouted, "We have no drugs, we have no alcohol, there is no reason for this."

They seemed to be appealing for help from the mass of media and large group of onlookers who came to check out the commotion.

The youths, some whom traveled hundreds of miles by rail, came to Fargo-Moorhead for a music festival. Concert organizers, however, failed to secure a venue and the Friday show was canceled.

A couple of the concertgoers said they came to Lindenwood Park because it was the only place they knew where to go.

"We paid to camp here," another youth yelled.

Rodney Jones of the Fargo Parks and Recreation Department said the group rented five campsites, each holding up to 14 people.

"A couple paid," he said. "The problem is more people kept showing up."

Officers from Fargo, Moorhead, Cass County, the Minnesota State Highway Patrol and the North Dakota State Highway Patrol, and at least two K-9 units, responded to the call.

"You have been ordered to leave," an officer yelled.

Some youths cooperated and left the scene immediately. Others did not. As two police officers struggled to get a woman into a squad car, a friend opened the opposite police car door, allowing her to almost escape out the other side.

"It's always a little difficult when you get called to a chaotic scene like that," said Sgt. Dean Mueller of the Fargo Police Department. "It's hard to tell the difference between the good guys and bad guys and the crowd can turn on you."

Another woman tried to dump a bottle of water on top of a sheriff's deputy's head.

Some police had night sticks drawn, but it was more for show. They did, however, mace at least one man and a dog.

"I was no threat, why did I get maced?" yelled a man as police hauled him, kicking, to a squad car.

"This is justice?" his friend yelled.

Police had cleared the park by about 9:45 p.m., Magnus said. He said many youths were still in the area and said police would be keeping "close tabs on them this weekend."