Police broke up a candlelight vigil involving more than 100 people at a public park in Eatonville because they hadn’t obtained permission to use it and were there after hours.
Officers went to Mill Pond Park July 24 after neighbors called authorities and complained about the noise and size of the crowd, according to police chief Jason McGuire.
The vigil was organized by a friend of Karianna Fisher, a local teenager who died in an accident the previous week while riding an all-terrain vehicle. About 120 people showed up, reportedly more than were expected, and were still there shortly after 9 p.m. When officers learned the group didn’t have a permit from the town for a gathering that size, police began telling them they had to leave, McGuire said.
He said some people in the group initially refused, and one man believed to be intoxicated urinated in front of an officer. The man was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car, but wasn’t arrested and was released later, McGuire said.
There were no physical altercations while police were dispersing the crowd, he added.
Two Eatonville Police officers and two Pierce County Sheriff deputies were at the scene.
In addition to the group lacking a permit, there were two other concerns prompting the decision to disperse them, McGuire said: They were at the park after dusk, when it closes, and they were placing lighted candles on the grass, which created a fire hazard because of the dry conditions.
McGuire and Mayor Ray Harper said officials understood the desire of mourners who wished to honor Fisher.
“There was no intent to disrespect anyone. It was too many people at the wrong time,” the mayor said.
Harper said officials would have considered allowing the vigil if they’d been contacted in advance. He said the group probably would have been directed to use the town square on Mashell Avenue, the location of the town’s Visitor Center.