By the thousands, they came.
In a festive mood because of a huge football victory, young people strolled through Five Points until the early morning hours. They packed nightclubs. They milled on the sidewalks to soak up the atmosphere. Many poured back beer and mixed drinks.
[At the bottom of the story: Read Reporter Noelle Phillips' Tweets from Five Points on Saturday night.]
Columbia police kept a watchful eye on the action with help from the S.C. Highway Patrol, federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, state constables and Columbia-Richland Fire Department. Officers stood in pairs on street corners, some wearing reflective yellow safety vests, others in plain clothes to mix with bar patrons. One officer watched from an observation tower perched near the fountain.
It was an almost unprecedented show of force for a weekend night.
The State newspaper went out with police to watch as events unfolded Saturday night into early Sunday morning.
At 18, Candace Burkett is too young to drink alcohol and too young to get inside most Five Points bars. But that didnt stop her and her 19-year-old cousin, Tayy Wilson, from heading to Five Points Saturday night.
Burkett, a freshman at Benedict College, sat along the Five Points fountain as she and her cousin waited for friends to arrive. They are too old to hang out at a mall or Frankies Fun Park, she said. So, Five Points is the place to be for a young college woman in Columbia.
Theres a lot of movement, and its exciting, she said. Even when we cant get in the clubs we sit outside and laugh and joke and stuff.
About seven of Burketts friends arrived around 10:20 p.m. With perfectly placed hair, denim shorts, frilly blouses and ankle-high boots, the girls were ready to begin their night, mostly walking up and down Harden Street.
A call came across police radios, noting three minutes remained in the USC-Georgia football game. Two Columbia police officers and a state constable approached people gathered around the fountain and told them it was time to start moving.
Soon, those in Five Points realized the Gamecocks had upended fifth-ranked Georgia and car horns began blaring.
At this point, the streets were busy, but not crowded.
A lone man in a bright red shirt sat handcuffed at a temporary police booking station set up in a parking lot on Pavillion Street. It was his second encounter with police in two weeks, Police Chief Randy Scott said.
In September, the young man told police he had been assaulted in a bank parking lot in Five Points. After an investigation that included a review of surveillance camera footage from the night, police determined the man had never been assaulted. Instead, he was extremely drunk and had fallen, Scott said.
Now, he was under arrest for drunkenness.
After he was booked, the man was locked inside one of three transport vans used to carry people to the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. Already, one load had been taken to jail.
As police department employees processed the arrest, the police chief talked with Missy Gentry, the city public work director.
Gentry was one of several public officials who went to Five Points to experience the police departments challenges. Assistant city manager Allison Baker also was there. So was Columbia City Councilman Moe Baddourah, who represents Five Points.
Gentrys staff had built blue barricades with the words, Police line. Do not cross. Previously, police used plain, white barricades but people did not pay attention to them, often driving around them or getting out of their cars to move them, Scott said.
This is a big deal to me, Scott said of the barricades.
Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins arrived to work with three fire marshals on hand to check bars for overcrowding and other fire code violations. He put on a bulletproof vest for the night.
Come on and sit here by my side. Come on and take a free ride, blared from outdoor speakers at Breakers Bar and Grill at Harden and Greene streets. Young people in garnet and black stood on the patio as the Edgar Winter Bands Free Ride, played to the party atmosphere.
Scott stood nearby watching as the streets became more crowded.
This is nothing, Scott said. We can still move on the sidewalk.
A young woman in a little black dress danced in celebration of Florida State Universitys loss to N.C. State. She shimmied around Scott as her friend, also in a little black dress, jogged in a circle to slap hands with Scott and two other uniformed officers.
I love high-fiving police officers, the friend squealed. Wooooooo!
The girls bounded toward Pavlovs as the officers smiled and shook their heads.
Someone was arrested for urinating in the Five Points Fountain.
A group of young men walking toward Sharkys bar caught the cops attention.
Several officers gathered on the sidewalk to watch them as they stood in line to enter the bar. Police would not say exactly what the men did to get noticed. No one was arrested.
However, the police departments gang unit was on hand Saturday to keep an eye on potential gang activity. Three men in the group were denied entry into Sharkys because they were wearing solid colored T-shirts.
A 25-year-old man noticed the police and struck up a conversation. First, Gavin Sparks, a computer programmer and military veteran, told police that he had a designated driver for the night.
Then, he criticized their enforcement strategy.
Yall are ruining the scene, he said.
When asked how that was being done, Sparks said, They make people keep moving. Its Five Points. You talk to people.
An older man in a Gamecocks jersey found Scott and began heatedly complaining that he had been humiliated by being accused of panhandling.
Scot grabbed the mans arm and told him to calm down.
Im going home, man, he said to Scott.
A man in red shorts and a white Oxford made a run for it through the door to Jakes Bar and Grill courtyard on Devine Street. A doorman chased him down with a police officers help and escorted him out.
The man, who had been kicked out earlier, pleaded with security to be allowed back inside. His wife was there and refused to come out, he said.
At one point, the man removed his wedding ring and handed it to Scott.
Why are you giving me that? Scott said. Put it back on your hand.
A station wagon stopped in the middle of Devine Street to let several young women out. One left the door open as she fiddled with something in the cars backseat. Her back was toward moving traffic.
Girls! Girls! shouted Deputy Chief Ruben Santiago. What are yall doing? Get out of the road.
Police rushed up Greene Street, where an argument had erupted inside a taxi.
Three women screamed at each other as a young man in madras shorts, white Oxford shirt and a visor wallowed on his back in the grass in front of Clausen Inn.
The cab driver was trying to kick everyone out of his van as the women argued. One was accusing another of pulling her hair.
The man had gotten into the cab with two young women that he had just met. A third young woman, who swore she was not his girlfriend but was his best friend, had tried to stop him.
I dont want him leaving with two girls he doesnt know, she said. Thats sick.
Meanwhile, cops ordered the young man to stand up or go to jail.
They sent his new acquaintances away and then told the third woman to find a ride to take the young man home.
Columbia fire marshals ordered 378 people to leave Pavlovs. The bars capacity is 245.
Police officers blocked a back door as patrons chugged beer and liquor drinks before exiting the front door.
Police arrested people who put up a fight, including one man who slapped a fire marshal and ran.
Scott and Santiago chased him. Scott made a diving tackle and held the man down with his knee as other officers came to help. The man bled from a cut over his left eye after the scuffle.
As the man was led away, a buddy spent nearly 10 minutes asking police how to get his friend out of jail. Officers repeatedly told him to attend a Sunday morning bond hearing.
The man kept talking. Finally, Assistant Chief Les Wiser ordered the friend to leave.
As fire marshals continued clearing the club, a USC senior pondered how he would pay his tab at the bar. The student, who had bloodshot eyes and smelled of alcohol, complained about the enforcement. Its a waste of taxpayers money, he groused.
Pavlovs received a $1,092.50 fine, the same amount charged to every bar ordered closed for overcrowding.
The fire marshals next stop was The Library.
Fire marshal Matt Lam took one look inside and stepped out. He guessed the temperature exceeded 100 degrees in the crowded bar and reported that he could smell marijuana.
A song called I Luv Dem Strippers, by 2 Chainz blared as 369 men and women filed out the door. The bars capacity was 176.
Scott called on his radio, All units near The Library. Lets get this cleared out.
Extra police officers broke up the crowd building on the sidewalk. One rode a three-wheeled electric scooter with flashing blue lights.
Baddourah pondered the magnitude of the crowd.
Theres a lot of people, he said. Theyre all out on the sidewalk.
Scott acknowledged that problems could be created by sending hundreds more people into the street. But he said, Can you imagine if a fight or shooting happened in there? So many people would be hurt.
An officer in the observation tower called for help, suspecting a fight was breaking at the fountain. As dozens of cops sprinted toward the area, the participants scattered.
The fight was squelched before it ever got started.
The sidewalks on Harden Street were so crowded at this point that people were walking in the street to move around.
It was almost impossible to get an accurate crowd estimate, Santiago said. People are continuously moving and the police cannot know how many are inside the bars, he said. But police guessed that more than 8,000 people were in Five Points early Sunday morning.
With 15 minutes left before the mandatory bar closing, police cars blocked traffic entrances into Five Points. Those who had been cruising in cars and on motorcycles no longer could pass through.
A cop told a couple cuddling in a dark parking lot to be careful. When the young man answered with slurred words, the officer warned the man not to drive home. The man argued but his words were unintelligible.
Meanwhile, officers ordered customers crowded around a tent selling grilled chicken to make way for a car leaving the parking lot behind Kildares Irish Pub, which was being closed by fire marshals.
Folks, lets go, shouted Cpl. Larry Walker.
Is it worth a ticket? Walker asked a young woman trying to carry a beer out of the bar. Walker later said, You ask them to move as nice as possible and they still wont go.
And Scott added, Your next step is to put them in handcuffs.
Police tried to be lenient. But when people pushed, they were left with few choices other than to make an arrest, Scott said.
We dont mean to inconvenience anybody but we have to enforce the law, Scott said.
Five Points is closed. Everybody keep moving, came orders from cops on foot and in patrol cars.
An ear-piercing tweet blasted from a loud speaker mounted on one patrol car that cruised slowly down Harden Street. The excruciating sound was meant to discourage people from lingering on the street.
It was effective.
A skinny young man wearing handcuffs begged Scott and Capt. G. A. Sharp for mercy as they escorted him to the booking station on Pavillion Street.
Sir, please. Im only here for a day. I gave the middle finger. It was a mistake, he rambled. Sir, I dont know where I am. Am I going to jail?
Yes, Sharp answered.
Please, sir. Is there anything I can do?
No, Sharp said.
Please, the man said as his voice cracked. Im going to cry.
Dont, Sharp said.
At the booking station, Sharp found a fake Rhode Island drivers license in the mans wallet. The young man first told police he was 19. Then he said he was 20.
Sharp found the mans real drivers license. He was a 20-year-old from Miami who attends Emory University in Atlanta.
When informed that he would be charged with disorderly conduct, drunkenness and possession of a false ID, the young man put his head in his lap and sobbed.
An officer directing traffic in the 900 block of Harden Street had a young man pinned against his car. The young man had challenged the officer to a fight, using an expletive.
That took all of two seconds, Scott said.
The party crowd wanted a late-night meal to end the night. A line spilled out of Cookout, a hamburger and milkshake restaurant near Harden and Gervais streets. Cars with stereos cranked up filled the Food Lion parking lot.
The fire marshals cleared Cookout as police urged cars to leave the grocery stores lot.
Traffic began thinning and stragglers were looking for cabs to take them home.
A street sweeper worked its way up Devine Street as the 50 officers working overtime in Five Points were called to end their shift. Road blocks reopened so cars could drive through Five Points.
Police drank water and ate chicken sandwiches as they talked about the football game and the nights activity in Five Points.
It was very effective, Scott said to his officers. I appreciated yall coming. I know it was your weekend off.
A police car on Devine Street had pulled over a pickup truck with three young people in the back. While the command post had been packed up, officers working their regular overnight shifts remained on duty in Five Points.
Small groups of students wandered the streets. A lone woman walked home on Saluda Avenue, a decision that police advise against.