by: Deborah Horne Updated:Bellingham, Wash. —
''Both the university, the good students, the people who didn't dial 911 soon enough, they all got a wakeup call." That's the impact, says Jon Shaughnessy, of this riot Saturday night just a few blocks from his home. He and his Sehome neighbors blame much of what happened on underage drinking among Western Washington University students. He says the evidence of that can be found all over the neighborhood. "Bottles and cans," he said. "And they're almost a hundred percent alcohol."
The riot began after Bellingham police broke up a block party. Hundreds then marched to nearby Laurel Park and within an hour, a full-scale, big-city riot was underway. It even shocked seasoned police officers. "I've been here for 40 years, on the department," said Bellingham Police Lt. Rick Sucee. "Born and raised here, and I have never seen a violent crowd like that in confrontation."
But neighbors said they believe it might not have gotten out of hand if Laurel Park were lighted, something they have lobbied for, for years. "If the police can see who's in the park doing something bad," Shaughnessy said, "That's part of the solution. Clearly Saturday night, I'm sure the police wish they could see better as to who needed to be controlled."
Shaughnessey said he and his neighbors plan to meet with Bellingham police and officials at Western. Because some of his neighbors are so angry about this, they are threatening to move.