Skip to comments.Revelry turns ‘vicious’
Posted on 05/05/2003 11:36:10 AM PDT by Gefreiter
Monday, May 5, 2003 -- AMHERST - University of Massachusetts and town officials said today they will take steps to prevent a recurrence of Saturday's "full-fledged riot" that resulted in more than a dozen injuries and 45 arrests after several thousand college-age revelers gathered for the annual Hobart Hoedown in North Amherst.
During a press conference this morning, Police Chief Charles Scherpa said, "What began as a series of parties developed into a full-fledged riot."
Scherpa said town and UMass officials are assessing how to prevent such problems in the future.
Also at today's press conference, UMass Police Chief Barbara O'Connor said meetings are planned with student groups this week "to see what assurances we can get" that similar behavior won't happen at events scheduled on campus for Thursday and the weekend.
Marcia Howard of 60 Hobart Lane attended today's press conference and said, "I think the police were wonderful," adding that she could not leave her house after 2 p.m. Saturday because of the crowds.
The scene turned ugly just before midnight with bonfires in the middle of North Pleasant Street and the crowd pelting police officers with rocks and bottles.
There were at least six fires, including, one which burned down a Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus stop. At least three cruisers were badly damaged, and an ambulance and a pumper truck were also struck by rocks.
Damage to Amherst police cruisers was estimated at between $17,000 and $18,000. And Scherpa estimated the cost of Amherst police overtime at $20,000.
Police donned riot gear and spent about three hours dispersing the crowd, including the use of pepper spray.
"I've never seen a crowd be so vicious," said Fire Chief Keith Hoyle. "I've seen a lot of baloney but this is the worst I've ever seen."
His crews extinguished a half-dozen fires and dealt with gasoline spills from two overturned vehicles.
"There were a number of fires we couldn't get to because of the unruly crowd," Hoyle said. "My hat was off to the police for the abuse they took and the way they handled it."
More than a dozen people, including six police officers, were taken by ambulance or private car to Cooley Dickinson Hospital, where they were treated and released.
University of Massachusetts Police Chief Barbara O'Connor reported that four UMass police officers were injured and will be unable to work for a few days.
"One officer took a brick right in the middle of his chest, near his heart," O'Connor said. He has a softball-sized bruise, she added.
A UMass police vehicle also was heavily damaged, and the cost of repairs is estimated at $5,000 to $6.000. "Every window in it is smashed. It looks like they took a baseball bat to it."
Saturday's disturbance spilled across North Pleasant Street to Puffton Village where a grove of spruce trees was set on fire, a sign was smashed the sign for the apartment complex and damaged stone walls.
"The police from Amherst, UMass and the state did a great job. Now it's up to the courts and UMass," Town Manager Barry Del Castilho said this morning. "There must be serious consequences for those who were arrested, or the message will be that it can happen again, next week or next year."
UMass Chancellor John V. Lombardi issued a statement Sunday afternoon condemning what he called "inappropriate and destructive" behavior.
"The university is appalled to learn that our community suffered another example of disgraceful behavior in the area of Hobart Lane in North Amherst involving, among others, a large number of University students," Lombardi said.
"I understand that this behavior that produces significant injuries is not new to this part of the off-campus community, and it clearly requires a combined effort by the University, its colleagues in the community, and the private owners of these apartment complexes to ensure that we do not continue to experience this behavior with its damaging consequences to individuals and property and its high risks for everyone involved," said Lombardi who arrived on campus last July.
Lombardi said students would be held responsible under the university's code of conduct.
The Police Department issued a statement Sunday morning but officials declined to discuss the weekend's events with reporters. The statement said 30 Amherst police officers, 12 from the UMass Police Department and four state troopers were involved.
There were 28 arrests for disorderly conduct, 11 for inciting a riot, four for violations of the town's open container bylaw, one for driving while under the influence of alcohol and one for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a police officer.
The Hobart Hoedown resumed last year at the end of the spring semester and attracted a crowd of about 2,000 and resulted in 55 arrests. It had not been held since 1997 when problems led town officials to work with landlords, UMass officials and students in the Problem-Solving Partnership to address issues of drinking off campus.
Scene in North Amherst
This year on Saturday, there were dozens of parties most of the day in apartments at Puffton Village, Gilreath Apartments and houses along Hobart Lane and North Pleasant Street. Police dispersed a crowd estimated at between 1,000 and 1,500 on Hobart Lane at 4 p.m., arresting a few people but reporting that the crowd was cooperative.
On Sunday morning lawns were littered with bright blue and red beer cups, crushed beer cans and jagged pieces of glass from bottles.
Many students interviewed Sunday morning blamed police in riot gear for the parties getting out of hand. But others said they wished there had been a larger police presence.
Christopher Barriere, 23, of Melrose who was visiting a friend at Crestview Apartments, saw his car windshield smashed.
"We looked outside and saw the car next to mine was upside down. Four people were jumping on it like kids on a mattress," Barriere said. "One jumped off onto my car and smashed the windshield. We called the police but they didn't come (to the apartment). They were just trying to dodge bottles."
"It was a hell of a lot worse than last year," said Robert Baker, live-in property manager at Crestview Apartments. "It was worse than I've ever seen it."
The solution? "Raise the drinking age to 25," Baker said.
Pranesh Venugopal, 26, a graduate student in engineering from India, was awakened by the noise outside his Puffton Village apartment. "They broke my car window," he reported.
"I was Maced for no reason," said Kerri Smith, 24, of Chicopee, who was visiting at 1039 North Pleasant St. "I had nothing in my hand."
Resident Bard Carvalho, 24, said partygoers tried to flee into the house to avoid the Mace.
"It was a block party, a barbecue," said Ben Sayre, 23, a senior from New Jersey.
"It's just college kids," added Charles Kotherithana, 22, of Belmont. They said police appearing in riot gear caused the situation to escalate.
Downtown, passersby gaped at a damaged police cruiser parked in front of the Amherst police station.
Michael Trainor, 19, a UMass sophomore from Groton who was driving a PVTA campus shuttle bus Saturday night, said the PVTA shut down bus runs on North Pleasant Street around midnight. "It made a lot of people upset," he said.
Trainor was videotaping the damaged cruiser. "No one believed me about the riot," he explained.
"What a waste," said Robert Hegner of 27 Tanglewood Lane as he viewed the damage.
Can you believe that some of these kids said that there was a riot because the cops showed up in riot gear?!
Their profs probably encouraged them. Spoiled brats at any rate; I have no sympathy for any of them.
This riot is democracy in action, the mob rules.
Tell me about it! I used to live near the American Legion hall in Amherst, and you would not believe the crudeness of the losers who hung out there: fights and drug deals and drunken sex were common sights in the parking lot.
The Palestinian mentality: "They tried to stop us from [x], therefore we are justified to do [x]!"
The left wing extremists (the types who riot at the WTO meetings, at Citibank, at the Presidential conventions, at foreign McDonald's, took to the streets for "antiwar" protests in SF and DC, etc.) are anarchist-socialists. The protestors who sat down in the streets were doing their best to get people to rise up. Read some quotes from the left-wing nuts. Anarchy is their end goal (which is why they seek to break down the family structure along with everything else).
They are incompatible with our constitutional form of government (they do seek to topple our government, but some see their goal as happening beyond their lifetime and they don't see themselves as seditious traitors).