On Saturday, scores of weed aficionados from across the Bay Area piled into their friends' Hondas to descend upon Golden Gate Park for the annual (yet unofficial in any capacity) 4/20 celebration of weed culture. While there's no telling how much weed went up in smoke by 4:20 p.m., volunteers and park workers spent much of the next day cleaning up five tons of snack-related debris.
According to Rec & Park officials, the draw was significantly larger than previous years, bringing in an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people to the Eastern end of the park near San Francisco's gutter punks-and-tie-dye district in the Upper Haight. The gorgeous weather and the fact that the stoner holiday fell on a weekend, when even those people who don't live in their parents' basement could make the pilgrimage, seemed to contribute to the higher attendance. Because it is a completely unorganized and impromptu event, there are no permits and no one responsible for bringing out extra trash cans or porta-potties, even though DJ booths, barbecues and The city spends about $10,000 and four days cleaning up after the event every year.
Actual pieces of garbage aside, the event is maybe not quite as mellow as one would expect from a chill-out event in a place called "Hippie Hill." According to Captain Greg Corrales of SFPD's Park Station a few blocks away on Stanyan Street, the event is known to "attract a criminal element." In 2012, a 16-year-old was stabbed on the arm. In 2011, a 47-year-old woman was "bashed in the head with a portable radio."
This year, known gang members were smart enough to RSVP to the event on Facebook, so Captain Corrales' team had some advance warning. While SFPD Lt. Simon Silverman, also of Park Station, said issuing tickets for littering would have strained the departments resources, judging by the flood of YouTube videos featuring white dudes with dreadlocks taking wild swings at each other, the police presence didn't do much to stop the human trash from showing up in the park either:
Note, at 0:13 mark: "RAAAASTAAA!" [Note: Some are disputing this, saying the bystander is actually yelling "World Star!" as in: World Star Hip Hop, a website notorious for its fight videos.]
Supervisor Scott Wiener was apparently disgusted by the mess left behind and took to Facebook Monday morning to scold the revelers for acting like children:
It's great that our parks - the best park system in the country - are so popular and well-used, but we're developing a culture of complete disrespect for these public spaces. This trashing of Golden Gate Park during the 420 event is just the latest example. Dolores Park receives similar trashing on any nice and crowded day. The solution isn't to stop people from enjoying our parks, which exist to be enjoyed. How can we get people to be more respectful and to pick up after themselves, just like mom taught us to do when we were 3 years old?
In case anyone needed visual evidence of people acting like toddlers, here are a few participants acting out the worst sort of playground fight:
As for the aftermath that spilled out into surrounding neighborhoods: SFist heard multiple reports of 71-Haight buses packed to the gills as they headed towards downtown BART stations. Near our Western Branch offices on Divisadero, smoke and passengers billowed out of hotboxed sedans in search of BBQ, Popeye's Chicken and that one shady medical marijuana dispensary, all in a convenient two-block radius. One entrepreneurial man was seen wheeling a cart with several pallets of Frito-Lay snack size variety packs from CostCo.
To restore a modicum of faith in humanity: not every attendee was as inconsiderate as those seen punching each other in the head and leaving behind bags of Cheetos. Amir Holmes El, who lives in the city and came out Sunday morning to pitch in with the cleanup, told the Chronicle he spent the entire day at the event on Saturday and called it a "joyous and peaceful" celebration.