UMass responds to Blarney Blowout arrests

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – It was so quiet Sunday morning in Amherst you could even hear the trees rustle. Much different from how things went Saturday.

Close to 75 people were arrested at the annual Blarney Blowout; an off-campus celebration near the University of Massachusetts. Not all the residents were in party-mode.

“We had to be outside our house standing guard, getting people off our yard that were trying to urinate, our yards all dug up.”

One lifelong Amherst resident who wished to remain anonymous, lives right in the middle of the big party spots at UMass. She told 22News that it was like nothing she had ever seen before.

“The crowds were much bigger, overflowing all over the place,” said the resident.

The courtyard may not seem to busy right now, but on Saturday it was a sea of green; packed with thousands of students partying for an early St. Patrick’s Day.

Amherst Police Captain Jennifer Gunderson said officers came prepared this year, dressed in full riot gear. She says throughout the day officers were forced to use pepper spray in order to stop students from lashing out against police.

“Very over the top, unnecessary kind of reaction. If it was one of my friends who got pepper sprayed I’d be p****d because… it sucks, it’ll definitely be interesting to hear the kid’s sides,” said Riley McDonald, a participant in the Blarney Blowout.

22News spoke with one student who was pepper sprayed along with what he calls a large group of partiers.

“It was just ridiculous we were just standing there, having a good time and all of a sudden you hear those things start popping off and you get that weird taste in your mouth,” said Connor Mullin.

For many students, the local police took things too far. A police report released Sunday shows dozens of arrests related to severe alcohol intoxication, violent fighting and sexual assault. Police say they were just doing what was necessary to ensure the safety of students, and of other residents.

Four police officers suffered from minor injuries after students were throwing bottles, beer cans and rocks in protest.

On Sunday night, Kumble Subbaswamy, the Chancellor of UMass, released the following statement to 22News:

“I was outraged to see the impact of the so-called Blarney Blowout on our campus and community this weekend. Despite our best efforts over the past week to inform our students of the consequences of unruly alcohol-fueled behavior, by midday yesterday there had already been dozens of arrests and numerous large gatherings broken up.  It was a sad and difficult day for our campus and for the town of Amherst.

I want to make it unequivocally clear that the University of Massachusetts Amherst condemns the outrageous behavior of those students who acted out without any regard for public safety and the community in which they live. They have brought shame on our fine university and run the risk of devaluing the college degree that all of our students work so hard to achieve.

We acknowledge the strain that this weekend’s disturbances place on the town, and first responders in particular. We are also deeply disturbed that our neighbors in the vicinity of these events were forced to endure such scenes. There is no excuse for this type of alcohol-fueled behavior, and I want to assure both the town and the campus that we will take steps to address this incident.

My administration will redouble its efforts to work with the campus community and the town to avert future episodes like the one we just witnessed. We will also take swift action to address any violations of the Code of Student Conduct, whether on or off campus, resulting from this weekend’s disturbances. There will be consequences for those found to be responsible.

No doubt there are difficult conversations that lie ahead concerning student behavior, alcohol and civility, but I have no doubt that, working together, we can build the kind of community in which we all want to live.”

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