Students at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst say police used excessive force including high-powered pepper spray when officers attempted to break up parties during Blarney Blowout Saturday.
The annual Blarney Blowout, a pre-St. Patrick's Day gathering, is a tradition that dates back to the 1970's in Amherst. This year, however, it resulted in riots and violence with police arresting more than 70 people.
Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone said more than 4,000 people had gathered and as law enforcement tried to control the crowd, they were hit with bottles, full cans of beer and snowballs, according to the Boston Globe.
"The events of this past Saturday were extremely upsetting and hazardous,” Livingstone said in a statement Monday. "The behavior of many participants of this melee caused the public and first responders to be placed in a very dangerous situation."
But students tell a different story, like UMass Amherst student president Zac Broughton arguing police treated the students "like animals."
Joe Schindelar, a recent UMass graduate who was at a 200 person party on Saturday, said he watched police arrive to break it up in full riot gear, blasting people with pepper spray.
"It was completely uncalled for and most of it was completely un instigated," Schindelar said in a HuffPost Live segment, adding that "It seems just completely blown out of proportion to me."
Barstool Sports uploaded these .GIFs of police using pepper spray on party goers:
Olivia Kennis wrote at HerCampus that the parties didn't even get out of hand until the police arrived.
— Matt Barnes (@MattBarnes47) March 8, 2014
Contrary to media reports, Schindelar noted few of the students arrested actually hurled objects at police. Indeed, according to MassLive.com, only seven of those arrested faced charges relating to assault or battery, and more than half of those arrested were not UMass students.
"If there’s any credibility of excessive force by police, we will look at it, and look into it,” UMass Amherst spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said in a statement to media outlets.
The Amherst Police Department said it arrested 55 people between 8:00 a.m. Saturday and 8:00 a.m. on Sunday:
19 persons were arrested for Failure to Disperse from a Riot,
17 persons were arrested for Liquor Law Violations,
6 persons were arrested for Inciting a Riot,
6 persons were arrested for Disorderly Conduct
2 persons were arrested for Assault, Dangerous Weapon,
2 persons were arrested for Burglary,
2 persons were arrested OUI,
1 person was arrested for Possession of Firearm while Intoxicated
In addition there were 8 persons summonsed into court for criminal offenses.
5 persons were summonsed for Liquor Law Violations,
3 persons were summonsed for violating the town by law for Nuisance House