The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

September 15, 2013

A big brawl — with a purpose

Several agencies take part in drill responding to mock fight

MANKATO — For several dozen emergency responders and hospital staff, the mock brawl drill in Mankato was all about serious training to prepare for a large scale riot with injures.

For the college students playing the victims and rowdy drunks, it was a blast.

"I'm a schizophrenic who's drunk and had chemicals shot in her face," said Lindsey Roup, a Rassmussen nursing student, one of nearly 100 college students and others playing roles in the drill.

"I'm pregnant and injured and someone sprayed chemicals on us," said her friend Elena Hernandez-Lee.

The drill, which involved law enforcement and emergency responders from Mankato, North Mankato, Blue Earth and Nicollet counties and Mayo Clinic Health System, was staged at Red Rocks bar in downtown Mankato Sunday. The scene was a large scale fight in the bar that spilled out to the streets, with some 40 people injured.

Dozens more actors, wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with the saying "Operation Disorder 2013," served as the rowdy, drunken young people who's job it was to create confusion, get in the way of emergency workers and generally disregard authority.

Eric Weller, a Blue Earth County emergency manager, told the actors to play it up but keep safety first and never physically engage with anyone.

That admonition was eased a bit later in the drill when dozens of National Guard troops in full riot gear, batons and full-length shields showed up to provide crowd control. A Guard officer told the group of students they could feel free to push back with some force as the Guard members moved to control the crowd. But, he warned, "If you push back too hard, we will push, too. And we've got sticks."

Many of the students took them up on the offer, shoving against the shields as the intimidating unit of troops slowly moved the students to the mall area in front of Buffalo Wild Wings. The troops then began lifting and removing the students, who were sitting on the ground in protest, one at a time — in a manner a bit more gentle than a real-life scene would produce.

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