An altercation broke out last Saturday evening between two protest groups at the East Hampton Airport. One group, the Dark Skies Action Initiative, was not there to protest, but was holding a 10th anniversary party on a small hill near a runway and playing rock music on boom boxes, very loud. The other group, the Quiet Skies For the East End, a new organization, had hoped to hold their first protest on that hill against the people who make ear-shattering noise by flying chartered planes and helicopters into and back out from the city. They had signs reading SHAME. STOP THE NOISE. And DEATH TO HELICOPTERS.
Confronting the Dark Skies people on their scheduled site, particularly dark skies people who were playing music at an earsplitting level, they attacked with their signs, hitting some of the dark skies people on the head and hurting them or, alternately, knocking the dark glasses off their heads.
The Dark Skies people responded by turning up their boom boxes even louder and turning up their public address system—the officers of the organization had expected to make speeches over the PA system—to a high-screeching feedback volume.
Approximately 140 people were involved in this altercation, 70 on each side, one group for the dark skies and the other for the quiet skies, and the struggle for the top of the hill went on for some time, with first the Dark Skies people getting the upper hand and then the Quiet Skies people getting the better of it.
After a while, the flashing lights and the sirens of a convoy of police cars were heard far off in the distance, but the battle continued on, with neither side giving way. Two new busloads of Dark Skies people pulled up expecting a party before the police arrived and they ran out to the hill, swinging beer bottles and folding chairs. The bus drivers sounded their horns malevolently. Then almost immediately after, two more buses pulled up and more Quiet Skies protestors carrying signs came out, leaving the bus drivers to put their headlights on high, aimed into the melee.
When the police finally did arrive, they found almost all the signs of the Quiet Skies people ripped and broken, the catering truck for the Dark Skies people turned over, a big 10th anniversary cake with 10 candles on it thrown to the ground, and numerous bottles of beer and alcohol scattered around in among the wounded and dead.
The arriving police initially had trouble restoring order amongst so much smeared food and angry people, and soon reinforcements were called in. In time, a total of 12 squad cars and 32 officers armed with cell phones, handcuffs and violation ticket pads and pencils arrived, and after another 20 minutes they succeeded in forcing their way up the slippery cake icing and overturned banquet tables and food to command the hilltop, where, after firing warning shots into the air, they restored order.
Approximately 105 people were handcuffed and arrested, but when it came time to put them in the police paddy wagons that soon arrived, the Dark Skies and Quiet Skies people refused to get on with the people from the other side. So the police, to keep everybody calm, took the Dark Skiers in one bus and the Quiet Skiers in the other back to headquarters, where they were booked, held overnight and released on their own recognizance in the morning, pending trial dates.
Charges against the Dark Skies people involve littering, noise violations and holding a gathering of more than 50 people without a permit. Charges against the Quiet Skies people involve littering, shining headlights on high beams for more than 30 seconds and holding a protest group of more than 50 people without a permit.
Five ambulances tended to the wounded, all of whom were taken to Southampton Hospital for treatment and afterwards released. As far as fatalities were concerned, there were six people reported dead, but when the paramedics approached them they just all got up and walked away. They had been faking.
During this melee, passengers at the airport awaiting their flights asked authorities about all the activity at the faraway hill and were told nobody knew what it was. Airport activity therefore proceeded normally, with flights arriving and departing and the people boarding their planes or welcoming arriving guests flying out for the weekend.