Amherst police have arrested 73 students in the aftermath of a pre-St. Patrick’s Day party near the University of Massachusetts campus. When the party got out of control, police put on riot gear to combat the thousands of drunk and unhappy party goers at the “Barney Blowout,” an annual Amherst celebration.
Law enforcement officials in the area say that as a part of the spillover from a Saturday party, which started shortly after noon, four officers were injured while combating drunk students who were throwing beer cans, bottle and snowballs at officials who were trying to restore order.
On Saturday, there were several attempts by local authorities to break up large groups who were gathering near the Amherst campus. The groups were gathering for the “Barney Blowout,” which is a traditional party held the Saturday before spring break. Jennifer Gunderson, the captain of the Amherst Police Force, said that this party is disruptive and not a safe day for students.
The university has denounced the behavior of the students who took part in these riots. University officials also said they will review the cases of those students who have been arrested, and they will possibly be given sanctions that could include suspension or expulsion.
The main disruption occurred near multiple apartment buildings that are located just off of Cottage Street in the Northern Amherst area. Although the police were outnumbered, they did wear riot gear which protected them from any projectiles students were throwing. There were some scenes of violence, which included one student being led away by police with a bloody face. There is no word at this time how the student received a bloody face or if the police are directly responsible for this.
Some reports claim that the incident started when students gathered to begin the party and police were standing by, watching. Then when some students began to light fireworks, the police decided to begin dispersing the crowd. The students were not happy to have their party come to an end and made their displeasure evident. Police officers proceeded to yell commands and they apparently fired “paintball-style guns” loaded with “pepper spray pellets.” Traditional pepper spray guns were also used on the students. Amherst police in riot gear then arrested 73 at this pre-St. Patrick’s Day party.
Some of these crowds of students totaled more than 1,000. The police department asked UMass to stop its bus service to students to try and stem the growing number of students who were coming to the area for the pre-St. Patrick’s Day party.
Gunderson made a statement in which she said that this was one of the worst incidents that she has ever seen on a college campus. It was also one of the “worst scenes we have ever had with drunkenness and unruliness. Ambulances have been extremely busy all day.” She added that she was concerned about what could have happened over night when the sun went down: “It is extremely upsetting. It is very dangerous.”
The riot has been stopped for now in Amherst, as police in riot gear have already arrested 73 students. They are not only awaiting formal charges, but they will also be subjected to review by the university.
By Nick Manai