New Shoreham interim police chief outlines ‘overcrowding’ prior to fights at Ballard’s, ferry
NEW SHOREHAM, R.I. (WLNE) — A report issued by New Shoreham interim police chief Peter Chabot gives an outline to the events that led to several fights and eight arrests following a Reggae Fest on Block Island Aug. 8.
According to Chabot’s report, he was informed that Ballard’s was holding a traditional Reggae Fest on VJ Day (Aug. 8) and he was informed from several people that this year’s fest was expected to garner more visitors that previous years.
Chabot said in preparation, he had additional state troopers come out to the island for the day and Ballard’s owner Steve Filippi told him he was adding extra security personnel.
On the day of the festival, Chabot said he was welcoming guests coming from the ferry and saw that the majority of them were heading to straight to Ballard’s.
“Each time upon our arrival, we observed unusually large crowds with long lines of individuals attempting to gain entrance into Ballard’s as Ballard’s Security checked ID’s and bags for alcohol,” read the report.
Chabot noted that people in line waiting became frustrated and he saw people starting to jump the fence to gain entry.
After patrons told Chabot Ballard’s was overcrowded, he called New Shoreham Fire Chief Chris Hobe and State Fire Marshal Tim McLaughlin to check out if there were any capacity violations.
McLaughlin conclude there were no violations indoors, but he “expressed concerns with the amount of people on the beach, but could not enforce these areas as there are no capacity limits yet established.”
Following that check, a fight broke out at Ballard’s just before 6 p.m. and one arrest was made.
Chabot noted there were several other “small altercations” that were de-escalated.
In light of these scuffles, Filippi told Chabot he was shutting off the music and closing the bars. Chabot said this led to a mass exodus of people trying to exit at the same time.
The report said Chabot then turned his attention to the long lines at the ferry after everyone left Ballard’s, with the lines extending out on to Water Street.
“This overwhelmed Interstate Navigation’s ability to conduct normal boarding procedure causing ferries to max out in capacity early, forcing them to leave before the normal departure time knowing they would have to return with extra ferries to accommodate those still on the island,” wrote Chabot.
Chabot said there were several disturbances in the lines for the ferry and an incident report cited up to 12, though no arrests were made from altercations in the lines.
These smaller altercations culminated with a large fight that occurred on one of the ferries back to the main land, which led to seven arrests.
The report is the first comprehensive outline given to the chaos that night which resulted in the Town Council to call for a special meeting.
At that meeting, the council voted to review Ballard’s liquor and entertainment licenses at a show cause hearing has now been scheduled for Aug. 22 at 5 p.m.